Illinois lawyers make progress on lawsuit against Syngenta - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Illinois lawyers make progress on lawsuit against Syngenta

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Lawyers have made progress in taking a major seed company to trial, over claims it misled hundreds of Illinois farmers.

"It could be approaching a billion dollars in damage to the American farmers," said Mark Prince, a Marion-based attorney who is helping represent the farmers.

Williamson County judges are set to try hundreds of damage cases against Syngenta, a major global seed distributor based in Switzerland. Prosecutors accuse the company of selling genetically modified corn seed to Illinois farmers in 2013 that was not approved by China, a major corn importer.

Between 2013 and 2014, China rejected tons of corn exported by Illinois farmers who had purchased an unapproved seed strain distributed by Syngenta. They accuse the company of selling the seed knowing China wouldn't accept it.

Many corn farmers in southern Illinois say they are still struggling to recover from the hefty profit losses.

"It's a struggle for many of them just to keep their farms running," Prince said.

Several farmers voiced their concern during a meeting about the Syngenta lawsuit in Mt. Vernon last March.

"It obviously had an impact on my profit potential," said John Brink, a corn farmer in Richview.

The State Supreme Court recently ruled that judges in Williamson County will hear the cases against Syngenta, something Prince calls a victory for farmers.

"This is a rural county. They understand the trials and tribulations our farmers go through," Prince said.

Prince hopes trials will start by the end of this year.

A spokesperson for Syngenta issued a statement to News 3, claiming the lawsuits have no merit and that the corn seed strains in question were sold in full compliance with legal requirements.

Syngenta representatives argue data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the commodity price of corn declined before China's reported rejection of U.S. Corn in November 2013.

Lawyers like Prince, disagree.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the deep deep impact it has had on our farmers, and you know, our farmers work hard," Prince said.

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