Former State Ag Secretary Patty Judge, who also served one term as the state’s lieutenant governor, has been hired to travel the state this week with a lawyer and they are talking to farmers who planted a particular kind of corn.
“I’m not trying to give anybody legal advice. I’m a farmer,” Judge told Radio Iowa. “What I think they should do is listen and read and think. It appears, on the surface, that there was damage and if there is an opportunity to recover some of that damage, then they need to think about doing that.”
Syngenta — a global agribusiness company based in Switzerland — is accused of marketing a type of genetically modified corn in the U.S. before China had approved it for import. Over 360 individual lawsuit have been filed over the past several months by U.S. farmers who are alleging the company’s action contributed to the dramatic drop in corn prices — and cost American corn farmers a billion dollars.
“They have a duty of care in introducing a genetically modified strain that they know could shift the risk of financial burden of the export market falling apart if our export partners won’t take that crop,” said Mikal Watts, the attorney traveling Iowa with Judge.
He is arguing that individual lawsuits are a better approach than a class action lawsuit.
“I had the honor being one of the people negotiating the genetically modified rice settlement for $750 million and I think that fine result was achieved by individual farmers bringing their claims,” Watts said.
Watts and Judge visited with farmers at “town hall meetings” yesterday in Le Mars, Storm Lake and Pocahontas. Meetings are scheduled today in Royal, Ogden and Story City.
Agribusiness giants Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are also suing Sygenta over the same issue. A Syngenta spokesman has said the lawsuits are “without merit” and the company believes farmers have a right to access “approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability.”
China started rejecting U.S. corn shipments in the fall of 2013, citing contamination from the genetically modified seeds Syngenta was selling in the United States. The Agrisure Viptera seeds marketed by Syngenta are genetically modified to protect corn plants from the damage inflicted by pests like corn borers and corn rootworms.