Tagged with "Law"
GMO backlash: Syngenta faces mounting lawsuits over genetically-modified seeds Tags: Agriculture China Commodities Court Food GMO Health Law USA

GMO backlash: Syngenta faces mounting lawsuits over genetically-modified seeds

RT October 21, 2014 short URL

RIA Novosti / Katerina Sovdagari
Agribusiness giant Syngenta AG now faces lawsuits from farmers in 11 US states claiming the seed-and-chemical company’s sale of a genetically-engineered variant of corn yet to receive approval in China depressed market prices for the grain.

At issue is Syngenta’s 2009 release and distribution of its MIR162 genetically-modified corn known as Agrisure Viptera, which is engineered to fend off certain insects known to decimate corn crops. While approved for use in the United States, Chinese regulators have yet to sanction the export of Viptera.

Last November, China began rejecting US corn shipments based on the existence of Viptera leading to more than $1 billion in damages for US farmers, plaintiffs in 11 states have alleged in various lawsuits filed in federal courts in recent weeks. RT reported earlier this month on three of these lawsuits against Switzerland-based Syngenta.

Farmers in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi joined the fray last week, as plaintiffs aim to reach class-action status with their combined suits, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Different varieties of wild or experimental peppers are displayed on a tablein a greenhouse, part of a global center which selects vegetable and fruit seeds, owned by global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta AG, in Sarrians, southeastern France. (AFP Photo / Sandra Laffont)

Different varieties of wild or experimental peppers are displayed on a tablein a greenhouse, part of a global center which selects vegetable and fruit seeds, owned by global Swiss agribusiness Syngenta AG, in Sarrians, southeastern France. (AFP Photo / Sandra Laffont)


A lawsuit filed in Iowa alleged that the release of Syngenta’s Viptera caused the US-to-China corn export market to fall by 85 percent. "Syngenta's decision to bring Viptera to the market crippled the 2013-14 corn export market to China," plaintiffs in Nebraska stated in their own suit.

Plaintiffs have accused the company of engaging in willful misrepresentation. Syngenta has claimed that "the vast majority of corn produced in the US is used domestically," plaintiffs have alleged, and that exports are not as important, though the US Department of Agriculture says 20 percent of corn produced in the US is exported.


John Ramsay, Chief Financial Officer, of Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta (AFP Photo / Shaun Curry)

John Ramsay, Chief Financial Officer, of Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta (AFP Photo / Shaun Curry)


Syngenta has maintained that it is not at fault for the plunge in corn prices, that it has always been open about Viptera’s approval status, and that the Chinese government should not be able to tell US farmers what corn they can grow.

“We continue to believe that [we have] complied with all the laws, rules and regulations of the countries in which we’re selling the product,” John Ramsay, Syngenta’s chief financial officer, said Thursday during a conference call, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Viptera has been sold legally to farmers in the US, Argentina, and Brazil since 2011. The GMO strain of corn is said to heighten protection against the likes of black cutworms and corn earworms.

James Pizzirusso, a partner at Hausfeld LLP, a law firm involved in some of the suits against Syngenta, echoed accusations that the company has not been transparent with Viptera and its status in Beijing.

“Syngenta should not have marketed and aggressively promoted Viptera while misrepresenting that Chinese approval was imminent and also downplaying the importance of the Chinese export market,” Pizzirusso said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the at least $1 billion in damages, the farmers seek an end of the cultivation and marketing of Viptera.

Though Viptera has been planted on only about three percent of US farm acreage, it is difficult to say for sure "that any shipments of US corn will not be contaminated with trace amounts of MIR162," the Nebraska plaintiffs said in their suit filed earlier this month.

The commingling of corn from various sources at corn distribution centers is “essentially impossible," according to the Iowa complaint, which cited other major grain companies Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill Inc., which do not accept Viptera.

Syngenta has been encouraged by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) to stop selling Viptera, according to the Iowa claim. The NGFA has estimated that actions taken in China against US corn have caused prices to drop by 11 cents per bushel.

In April, the NGFA, a trade organization for grain elevators, reported that China had barred nearly 1.45 million tons of corn shipments since 2013, resulting in about $427 million in lost sales.


The US Department of Agriculture building (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

The US Department of Agriculture building (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)


The farmers’ lawsuits join cases filed by Cargill and Trans Coastal Supply Co., grain exporters that also blame Syngenta for the loss of tens of millions of dollars based on Chinese rejection of GMO corn.

In 2011, Syngenta requested in federal court that a grain elevator firm, Bunge North America, remove signs that said it would not accept Viptera-variety corn. The request was denied in 2012.

Yet on Monday, a federal appeals court revived a false advertising claim in Syngenta’s lawsuit against Bunge, sending the claim back to a lower court for review.

The US Department of Agriculture expects 10 states to set records for corn production this year, though high productivity will likely lead to lower prices.


*Tough on trolls: UK internet abusers may face up to 2 years in jail Tags: trolls shills internet freedom of speech UK new laws

Published time: October 19, 2014 

Reuters / Jose Miguel Gomez

Internet trolls could face two years behind bars if new tough legislation “to combat cruelty” is adopted, according to UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

That’s four times the current six-month prison term and would proove the government’s zeal to “take a stand against a baying cyber-mob,” Grayling told The Daily Mail.

"These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence,” Justice Secretary added.


Reuters / Darren Staples

Reuters / Darren Staples


It comes days after TV presenter Chloe Madeley was abused online, an action which Grayling described as "crude and degrading."

Madeley received threats on the internet after she defended her mother Judy Finnigan's statement on a rape by footballer Ched Evans, which she said didn’t cause "bodily harm" and was "non-violent."

The presenter’s father spoke out against the trolling, saying that “prosecution awaits” the people who sent “sick rape threats” to his daughter.

Madeley herself said, “it needs to be accepted that physical threats should not fall under the 'freedom of speech' umbrella.”

“It should be seen as online terrorism and it should be illegal,” she added.

READ MORE: UK cyber-bullying surpasses face-to-face bullying for first time, study finds

Currently, magistrate courts deal with online offenses under the Malicious Communications Act, but under the new law, serious cases could be passed on to higher crown courts. It would be an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

Also, police would have more time to collect evidence for successful prosecution and cases of so-called “revenge porn”, when ex-lovers post compromising material.

In a recent internet abuse case, in September, UK citizen Peter Nunn was jailed for only 18 weeks for retweeting rape threats to MP Stella Creasy.




Girls in the army: Norway passes bill on mandatory military service for women Tags: Army Europe Law Military

Girls in the army: Norway passes bill on mandatory military service for women

RT October 18, 2014 ShortURL

The Norwegian parliament has voted in a strong majority on a bill aimed at extending mandatory military service to females. If the legislation is approved, all women in the country will be subject to the same conscription conditions as men.

The proposition, which was first announced in June 2013, was passed in Oslo this week, with 96 parliamentarians voting in favor of gender equality in the army. Only six voted against it.

"We do not really need more conscripts but we wish to extend military service to the entire age group to attract more motivated and more competent recruits," Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Soreide said.


Ruptly video screenshot

Ruptly video screenshot


If the bill is enacted, all medically fit women between 19 and 44 years old will have to serve at least 19 months of mandatory duty in the armed forces. It will apply to women born in Norway from 1997 onwards, with the first service in the summer of 2016. Women will also be subject to conscription during wartime.




Currently, women constitute just above 10 percent of military conscripts in Norway, serving in the armed forces on a volunteer basis. The initiative of compulsory military service for all citizens regardless of gender makes Norway the first European country to make such a decision in peacetime.

Outside Europe, military service is mandatory for both men and women in Israel.


Ruptly video screenshot

Ruptly video screenshot


Earlier this year, the Norwegian army started testing unisex dormitories. Women soldiers shared bedrooms with male recruits at one of the country's military bases.

"Even though there is a girl in the room, it doesn't mean there are any romances. We are just soldiers," conscript Mathias Hoegevold told Ruptly news agency.


Ruptly video screenshot

Ruptly video screenshot


In August 2013, the country's military officials announced that men in the army would be permitted to grow their hair long and keep it in ponytails, after a male officer complained it wasn't fair that only women were allowed to have longer styles.

If enacted, the new bill for mandatory female service will include provisions for the use of gender-neutral language.

Before being written into law, the proposition must be approved in the second reading. Voting is expected to take place later this term.


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