GMO Corn Causes Hardship for U.S. Corn Farmers

The use of genetically modified foods (GMO) has risen continuously over the past couple decades. Such foods are engineered to deliver increased yields, need less water, and be resistant to otherwise deadly pesticides. While there is controversy about the safety of these foods, some types of GMO products have been deemed safe.

The attitudes toward GMO products vary across the world. In the United States, the population is fairly accepting of genetic modification, although there is significant support for labeling and some total outright opposition. Indeed, more studies are required to ascertain the benefits and risks of different GMO crops. Europe and China have generally been more cautious about accepting new seeds into their grain channels. While they do allow some GMO varieties, they believe it is important to know more about their properties before widely distributing them.

Syngenta is an agri-business with a focus on developing GMO seeds. In 2009, they developed a strain of corn seed known as MIR 162. This specific type of corn was optimized to have enhanced resistance to insects and herbicides, as well as use water more efficiently. These benefits may sound promising, but health risks can rise if GMO products are not made properly. Even the highest quality products have unknown long-term risk. While the United States Department of Agriculture approved MIR 612 for sale in 2010, China only recently did so in December 2014.

This delay caused substantial hardship for U.S. corn farmers, who were expecting to be able to sell their corn to China. For years, they believed that the MIR 162 corn could be exported to China, as Syngenta said that approval was on the verge of happening. Unfortunately for the farmers and other people in the corn supply chain, it took far longer for China to give its acceptance.

This delay had a variety of negative effects, including cutting off a potential sales market for corn farmers and decreasing corn prices in the United States. Losses to the industry have reached the billions, and hundreds of parties are coming forward to sue Syngenta for their misrepresentation.