Court rules on side of Bunge in Syngenta corn case

By Holly Jessen | September 27, 2011

A motion made by Syngenta Corp. for a preliminary injunction against Bunge North America Inc. has been denied in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

In late August, Syngenta filed a complaint against Bunge, alleging the company was attempting to block the legal merchandising of Syngenta’s trademarked Agrisure Viptera corn. Beginning this summer, Bunge began rejecting Agrisure Viptera corn at all its locations because it has not been approved for sale in China.

In court documents filed Sept. 26, Judge Mark Bennett concluded that Syngenta isn’t likely to succeed with a court case on the merits of the claims on which it focused. Further, he said public interests of fostering markets for U.S. corn would best be served if the preliminary injunction was denied. “While I acknowledge that Syngenta does face a substantial threat of reputational harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction, I am not convinced the harm is of Bunge’s making,” he said in court documents.

“We believe that the court will not vary from the opinion denying the preliminary injunction and will ultimately confirm its ruling that Syngenta’s case is without merit,” Bunge said in a press release lauding the court decision. “We believe the court’s final ruling will further validate the actions Bunge took to protect the integrity of our export supply chain. Bunge remains a strong proponent of agricultural biotechnology and the benefits it offers to the entire value chain when responsibly managed.”

Although the preliminary injunction has been denied, the court case will continue to move forward, according to a Syngenta spokesperson. “This lawsuit is only part of Syngenta’s determination to secure greater clarity for growers regarding industry marketing practices for newly approved technologies, enabling them to market their grain with confidence,” the company said. “From this perspective, our determination is unchanged.”

USDA degregulation for Agrisure Viptera corn was received April 2010. Following that, the company received approvals for cultivation in Canada, Argentina and Brazil and import in several countries, including Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico and more. Approval for China is still pending and expected in early 2012, the company said.

Agrisure Viptera corn first became commercially available to U.S. corn farmers for the 2011 planting season. The corn provides protection from 14 insects, including corn borer and corn rootworm.