The first of several thousand lawsuits alleging that Syngenta cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars by releasing a variety of genetically engineered corn seed without Chinese import approval has officially gone to court.
Grain farmer Daniel Mensik, who runs a 300-acre farm near the Iowa border, says that Syngenta’s decision to release its Viptera corn seed before securing regulatory approval in China cost him about $125,000 in sales.
Mensik’s case went to trial on Monday in Minnesota.
Syngenta has denied responsibility for causing any losses.
In 2013, China stopped importing all U.S. corn because some shipments tested positive for Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera corn, which is genetically modified to better control crop-destroying insects such as armyworm and cutworm. At the time, China had not approved the corn seed for import.
The trade disruption cost the U.S. corn industry up $3 billion, according to the National Grain and Feed Association.
Mensik’s case — along with a second case that begins on June 5 in Kansas — will be used as a test case to help resolve tens of thousands of similar lawsuits filed by Corn Belt farmers.
Syngenta is being acquired by ChemChina in a $43 billion deal that is the largest ever foreign takeover by a Chinese firm.
The deal between state-owned China National Chemical Corporation and the Swiss pesticides and seeds company Syngenta is likely to close in May, according to reports.