Updated 1:55 p.m. CT with Syngenta comment
Cargill on Friday said it has filed a lawsuit against Syngenta Seeds, Inc. in Louisiana state court, seeking damages from Syngenta for commercializing its Agrisure Viptera (MIR 162) corn seed before the product obtained import approval from China.
Cargill's grain export facilities in Reserve, La., and Westwego, La., loaded vessels that were destined for and rejected by China. Because the MIR 162 trait is not approved in China, the country has rejected imports of U.S. corn since mid-November 2013.
"Unlike other seed companies, Syngenta has not practiced responsible stewardship by broadly commercializing a new product before receiving approval from a key export market like China," said Mark Stonacek, president of Cargill Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain North America. "Syngenta also put the ability of U.S. agriculture to serve global markets at risk, costing both Cargill and the entire U.S. agricultural industry significant damages."
Stonacek said that seed companies, farmers, grain handlers, exporters and others have a shared responsibility to maintain and preserve market access when introducing new technology.
"The risks – as well as the rewards – need to be shared across the marketplace by all of the stakeholders," Stonacek said. "Syngenta has not accepted its share of the risks associated with MIR 162."
While Dave Baudler, president of Cargill AgHorizons U.S., says the company an advocate for new technology, responsible stewardship and cooperation is required for everyone to benefit.
"I want to be clear about this: Cargill is a supporter of innovation and the development of new GMO seed products. But we take exception to Syngenta's actions in launching the sale of new products like MIR 162 before obtaining import approval in key export markets for U.S. crops," Baudler said. "Syngenta's actions are inconsistent with industry standards and the conduct of other biotechnology seed companies."
Stonacek said that filing the lawsuit came only after talks with Syngenta proved unproductive. "This issue is important to U.S. agriculture," Stonacek said. "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," Stonacek added.
In response to Cargill's allegations, Syngenta on Friday afternoon said the "lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies."
The company also said that the MIR 162 trait was commercialized in compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, and has earned import approval from major corn importing countries.
"Syngenta has been fully transparent in commercializing the trait over the last four years. During this time Agrisure Viptera has demonstrated major benefits for growers, preventing significant yield and grain quality losses resulting from damage by a broad spectrum of lepidopteran pests," a company statement said.