Is this GMO corn lawsuit against Syngenta an attack on GMO products?

ANSWER: NO!

  • Genetically-modified organisms (“GMOs”) have been engineered over the past several decades, and have made an invaluable contribution to the productivity of the American corn farmer
  • The average productivity of the American corn farmer has risen dramatically, from an average yield of less than 100 corn bushels an acre more than two decades ago to an average yield of almost 200 corn bushels an acre today
  • Different regulatory approaches to GMOs have caused the need to keep GMO crops separated from non-GMO crops
  • Syngenta’s introduction of its GMO corn trait known as MIR-162 failed to use the due care needed to keep this unapproved trait separated from other approved corn traits. This resulted in Chinese rejection of U.S. exports of corn, which caused the price of corn to fall precipitously

Genetically Modified Organisms (“GMOs”) are organisms that have been modified by the application of recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering, a technique used for altering a living organism’s genetic material. With the prevalent advances in biotechnology, a number of genetically modified crops carrying novel traits have been developed and released for commercial agriculture production. By 2000, USDA estimates suggested that 25 percent of US corn acres would be planted with GM varieties in 2000. As of 2011, herbicide-resistant GM corn was grown in 14 countries. By 2012, 26 varieties of herbicide-resistant GM corn were authorized for import into the European Union. It is now estimated that almost 150 million hectares of world crop acreage is not planted with GM crops. The average productivity of the American corn farmer has risen dramatically, from an average yield of less than 100 bushels and acre two decades ago to an average yield of almost 200 bushels an acre today.

The development of pest-tolerant plants can increase productivity while reducing pesticide use. However, different regulatory approaches have given rise to the need for seed companies to use great care when introducing new GMO strains. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety came into force in 2003, and by October 2011 has been ratified by 161 countries. The objective of the Protocol, as stated “is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements”. In a number of countries, it is mandatory to label products that use GM ingredients. As a consequence, GM and non-GM crops must be kept separate.

Syngenta’s introduction of its GMO corn trait known as MIR-162 failed to use the due care needed to keep this unapproved trait separated from other approved corn traits. Specifically, Syngenta promised the U.S. Government that it would segregate its seed from other approved seeds, implement mandatory stewardship programs to guarantee that corn grown from its unapproved seed would not be mixed in with other approved seeds through either cross-pollination or commingling, and that the unapproved corn would not be channeled in with approved corn. These promises were not kept by Syngenta. This resulted in Chinese rejection of U.S. exports of corn, which caused the price of corn to fall precipitously. As a consequence, American farmers lost billions of dollars.

Written by*:
Mikal C. Watts
WATTS GUERRA, LLP
Four Dominion Drive, Bldg. Three, Suite 100
San Antonio, Texas 78257

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the GMO corn lawsuit, and should not be received as legal advice. Legal advice is only given to persons or entities with whom Watts Guerra LLP has established an attorney-client relationship. If you have another lawyer in the GMO Corn lawsuit, you should consult with your own attorney, and rely upon his or her advice, rather than the information contained herein.

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