Syngenta GM corn dispute hurts bottom line for local, national growers

Corn Field
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Cargill filed a lawsuit against Syngenta this week for attempting to commercialize in China a GM corn product, Agrisure Viptera® (MIR 162) corn seed, which had not yet been approved for that market, the Montana-based company said in a news release.

Cargill grain exporters ran into trouble when they loaded the seed in vessels destined for China, which were rejected upon arrival, according to the company’s account. U.S. corn has been blocked from mainland China since the incident in November 2013.

Cargill alleges that Syngenta did not practice responsible stewardship and cost the U.S. agriculture community significant damages when it began commercializing a product that had not yet received market approval.

Although Colorado does not typically export corn products, blockage from China has had a downward effect on corn prices across the board, said Dave Eckhardt, president of the Colorado Corn Growers Association executive committee.

“Generally, Colorado is a corn deficit state — so we’re not shipping our corn overseas. It’s almost entirely consumed within the state and on feed yards for livestock,” Eckhardt said.

“From an export standpoint, the way Colorado corn growers are hurt is if the national supply is higher due to the inability of the Corn Belt to export corn to China. We’re affected indirectly, not from a delivery standpoint but from a price standpoint.”

Nationally, the cost of a bushel of corn stands at $3.16, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

In October 2013, the month before the clash in China, the export price for yellow corn was reported at $5.12 out of Louisiana, where Cargill had shipped out the now notorious GM shipment.

The USDA has not provided data on the current price from the Louisiana port.

The price for yellow corn in Greeley and Eaton is currently in the range of $3.88 to $4.02, slightly beating the average price for Northern Colorado of $2.98 to $4.02, according to the Greeley branch of the Agricultural Marketing Service.


Cargill said in this week’s press statement that talks with Syngenta had not proved productive and that Syngenta continued to pursue potentially damaging export practices.

“Marketing MIR 162 before receiving approval from China closed off that significant export market to U.S. farmers and exporters. Cargill believes that Syngenta continues to not accept its role in shared responsibility by moving ahead this year with the commercialization of Duracade, which also is not approved in China and other key export markets,” said Mark Stonacek, president of Cargill Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain North America.

According to a study by the National Grain and Feed Association, the uncertain trade environment has resulted in $2.9 billion in losses for exporters and farmers.

In response, Syngenta issued a statement saying, “Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability.

“The Agrisure Viptera® trait (MIR162) was approved for cultivation in the USA in 2010. Syngenta commercialized the trait in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements. Syngenta also obtained import approval from major corn importing countries.” ❖