Madison - St. Clair Record

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Syngenta AG's jurisdiction challenge rejected but negligence charge dismissed in corn-price case

By Mike Helenthal | Jun 11, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS — Most of the pretrial challenges filed by Syngenta AG in a class action suit against it for the production and marketing of a strain of genetically modified corn were dismissed, though some were accepted by a judge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

The suit, filed by a group of farmers who didn’t use or plant the genetically modified corn, claims the rejection of the Viptera and Duracade corn seeds by China and other countries in 2013 affected corn prices in the U.S. and hurt them financially. Syngenta also faces multi-district litigation suits in other state courts.

The corn strain, sold alongside other U.S. corn products, was marketed as a way to improve insect resistance and produce higher yields when it was released in 2011, though it had yet to be approved for use in China, according to the complaint.

One of the pretrial arguments—that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide the case or include non-Illinois farmers—was rejected by Judge David R. Herndon, who wrote that substantial proof existed that Syngenta conducted significant business in Illinois. 

“The field testing is an important step leading to the commercialization of Syngenta’s GMO products, and that, combined with the other Illinois contacts, is enough to satisfy minimum contacts doctrine,” Judge Herndon wrote in his decision. “Plaintiffs do not have to prove that Syngenta did all their business activities regarding commercialization and marketing of Viptera seeds in Illinois only.”

The court did, however, agree with Syngenta’s argument to dismiss the issue of negligent misrepresentation.

“The elements of a negligence claim differ from what is required to prove a negligent misrepresentation claim,” the judge wrote, saying plaintiffs would have had to prove several points, including that Syngenta had made a false statement of material fact, was carelessness or negligent regarding the truth of its statements and that it intentionally induced the other party to act.

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Syngenta U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois East St. Louis