Syngenta Sued for $1 Billion Damages over China’s Rejection of GM Corn as China Halts Its GM Rice and Corn Programmes

85 % US export market to China destroyed as domestic prices for corn dropped 11 cents per bushel.

by Dr Mae-Wan Ho

US corn prices plummeted as China rejected all shipments containing traces of Syngenta’s MIR162. Farmers from 5 major corn growing states have filed 3 class action lawsuits against Syngenta, claiming damages of more than $1 billion [1, 2].

Syngenta released MIR162, trade name Agrisure Vipera, in 2009. It is engineered to make a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein vip3Aa20 toxic to lepidopteran insect pests (butterflies and moths) [3], and also has a gene pmi (phosphomannose isomerase) from E. coli to allow positive selection for the transgene. It was created with Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated plant transformation, a particularly hazardous vector system that risks further horizontal gene transfer (see [4] Ban GMOs Now, ISIS Special Report). While MIR162 is approved for use in the US, China has not allowed its import into the country.

Syngenta is blamed for destroying the export of US corn to China, which led to depressed prices for domestic corn, according to Volnek Farms, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Omaha, Nebraska federal court. The two other suits were filed in Iowa and Illinois federal courts.

None of the farmers involved in the lawsuits planted MIR162 seed in their fields in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. But their harvested crop was contaminated with traces of the transgenic trait, and hence unsalable to the Chinese market.

Although Viptera has been planted on only about 3 % of US farm acreage, it is difficult to say for sure “that any shipments of US corn will not be contaminated with trace amounts of MIR162”, the Nebraska plaintiff stated.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) had encouraged Syngenta to stop selling Viptera, according to the Iowa claim. The NGFA estimated that actions taken in China against US corn have caused prices to drop by 11 cents per bushel. The Iowa suit also claims that the release of Syngenta’s Viptera caused the US to China export market to drop by 85 %. Nebraska plaintiffs, too, accuse Syngenta of having crippled the 2013-14 corn export market to China. The NGFA reported in April 2014 that China had barred nearly 1.45 million tons of corn shipments since 2013.

In 2011, Syngenta requested in federal court that a grain elevator firm, Bunge North America, to remove its signs that said it would not accept Vipera corn. The request was denied.

Concern over the safety of GM food may have played a role in a recent decision by China’s officials to move away from GM production. In August, China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced it would not continue with GM rice and corn [5].


  1. “Billion-dollar lawsuits claim GMO corn ‘destroyed’ US export to China”, RT Qestion More, 6 October 2014,
  2. Farmers Sue Syngenta. Chemical & Engineering News, 13 October 2014,
  3. Event Name: MIR162, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, accessed 13 October 2014,
  4. Ho MW and Sirinathsinghji E. Ban GMOs Now, ISIS Special Report, June 2013,
  5. “End of the line: GMO production in China halted”, RT Question More, 21 August, 2014,


  1. It speaks volumes that our government won’t step up to banning GMOs, yet they’ll probably be forced to do so because of the courage of lawmakers in other countries, such as China and the EU.

  2. I wonder if Ib Borup Pederson’s lecture (Changing from GMO to non GMO natural soy – experiences from Denmark) held in Beijing 25 -26 July 2014 and posted here, had anything to do with this decision???

  3. Finally some common sense in the world of GMO. I feel so bad for the farmers whose crops were contaminated… I hope they win their case.

  4. Unfortunately the uninformed Farmers that “trust” their seeds suppliers are
    the ones that will suffer most. At least this will bring the issue into the spotlight
    and hopefully governments will pay more attention to food security that is based on
    naturally developed seeds.
    I doubt if there are any gmo seeds stored at Svalbard.

  5. I think none of you know anything about GMO’s. You probably think that GMO’s are “making plants make their own insecticides!” or “Making them not die from herbicides!” OH MY! Yes, some do this, and they are perverted by the huge evil companies. But can you really say you understand every aspect of benefit or loss from genetically modifying organisms? Are you against all medicine because some people allergies that make some medicines become poison to them, or because doctors used to use cocaine as an anesthetic? NO! There are incredibly valuable medicines out there just like valuable gmo research is going on. Would you scoff at lettuce with quadrupled calcium expression? How about drought resistance in tomatoes? Spend five minutes talking to someone who studies a subject in depth before you try to kill an industry. (p.s. Is it possible that the U.S. may know a little more about GMOs than those “courageous lawmakers in China” and maybe this is why we haven’t “stepped up to banning GMOs”?)

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