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Minnesota firms engaged in China seed dispute

Legal battles over Minnesota agricultural products are not confined to issues in the state or even this country. Business litigation between two Minnesota firms involve China's refusal to accept a firm's shipment of corn grown with genetically modified seed.

Cargill Inc. filed a lawsuit against Syngenta Seeds on Sept. 12. Cargill claims that Syngenta Seeds shipped the corn to China without ensuring that officials in that country would allow these shipments. The lawsuit follows China's refusal to accept Cargill ships loaded with this seed. The ships were diverted to other ports and their cargo was ultimately accepted.

The seed, Agrisure Viptera trait or MIR162, was approved in 2010 for cultivation in the United States. Syngenta said that it commercialized the commodity in accordance with all regulatory requirements and obtained approval from major corn-importing countries.

Although China declared that genetically-approved foods are safe, its Ministry of Agriculture refused to renew certificates that allowed its research groups to grow genetically modified rice and corn. Cargill claims that China refused over 1.4 million metric tons corn since November 2013 after it found traces of Viptera on corn-carrying ships. One expert claimed, however, that it is not surprising that traces of this material would be in these ships because of the large scale movement of this product.

Cargill claimed over $90 million in damages from Chinese refusal of this product. It argued that Syngenta violated business standards by broadly commercializing a new product and cost Cargill significant damages by placing the nation's ability to serve global market at risks.

Syngenta claimed that it was fully open in its efforts to commercialize this seed and that the suit lacks merit. An expert also argues that China has a large surplus of rice and corn and was seeking reasons to block imports.

These types of commercial disputes require businesses to employ legal and technical expertise. Prompt advice helps parties in international and domestic legal disputes to litigate, settle or even to prevent costly lawsuits.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Cargill sues Syngenta Seed over shipments," Jim Spencer, Sept. 13, 2014

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