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Did You Grow Corn in Michigan in the Past Two Years? You’re Part of a Lawsuit

Corn farmers across the county have collectively filed more than 20,000 lawsuits against Syngenta. In 2010, Syngenta released GMO seed before it was approved by some export markets, most notably China. That GMO corn later found its way into the general corn supply and was loaded on barges headed for China. China ultimately rejected the GMO corn, but because it was comingled with approved varieties, all US Corn exports to China were halted. Farmers, as well as major corn processors – including ADM and Cargill – allege that the embargo caused a collapse in the market price of corn. 

Many of the lawsuits filed against Syngenta are pending in a state court in Minnesota, Syngenta's home state. Syngenta moved to dismiss the cases, but the court denied the motion, finding that Syngenta owed a legal duty to farmers to exercise reasonable care in the sale and promotion of its GMO seed. Those cases will now proceed to discovery, and likely trial. Cases filed in the federal courts are being transferred to the District Court in Kansas. Syngenta has similarly moved to dismiss the federal cases, but no decision has been issued yet. 

If you're a Michigan corn farmer and you priced corn for sale after November 2013, you are automatically part of the class action lawsuit.

© 2020 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 265


About this Author

Aaron M. Phelps, Varnum, litigation attorney

For over 15 years, Aaron's practice has been focused on complex commercial and environmental litigation - in Michigan and around the country. Aaron has represented clients in contract and corporate governance disputes, telecommunications and energy matters, health care litigation, and tort actions.

Over the last five years, Aaron has represented over 200 companies in lawsuits against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for ERISA violations. The first trial resulted in a $6 million judgment, and subsequent judgments ranged from $315,000 to over $8 million. Currently...

Brion Doyle, Litigation attorney, Varnum

Brion is a member of the Litigation Practice Team. He is experienced in commercial and environmental litigation in state and federal court. Brion has represented clients in a wide range of commercial and tort cases including class action defense, products liability defense, personal injury defense, commercial contract disputes, covenants not to compete, embezzlement and bank fraud actions, minority shareholder disputes, and in collection and creditors’ rights litigation. He has handled all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including facilitative mediation, arbitration and case evaluation under the Michigan Court Rules.

Brion is also a member of Varnum’s E-Discovery Task Force, where he advises clients on matters relating to the preservation and production of electronically-stored information, as well as best practices for companies in retaining data.