Louisiana, 5 other states settle with Monsanto over GMO wheat

On behalf of Rock Palermo of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC posted in Toxic Torts on March 20, 2015.

In May 2013, genetically modified wheat created by agricultural giant Monsanto was discovered on an Oregon farm. As many landowners may know, Monsanto and its compatriots in the industry can be extremely aggressive about enforcing their patents against farmers found using their products without payment -- even when the GMO seeds blew in on the wind and were grown inadvertently.

That wasn't the reason the discovery on the Oregon farm started a firestorm of litigation, however. This time, the problem was that the "Roundup Ready" wheat found on that farm was an experimental GMO that had never been approved for human consumption.

Testing for this never-approved strain was supposed to have ended over a decade ago, with any remaining grain safely stored or destroyed.

Yet more unapproved, experimental "Roundup Ready" wheat was discovered last September at an agricultural research facility at Montana State University. This was more than 14 years after field trials for the crop had ended at that facility in 2003.

The news that unapproved wheat might have contaminated the U.S. crop threw the international market into disorder. The GMO-sensitive nations South Korea and Japan suspended orders, and U.S. farmers filed a class-action lawsuit for market disruption, most of which was settled last year for about $2.4 million.

Today it was announced that Monsanto has settled -- without admitting any wrongdoing -- related class actions by farmers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Illinois. These cases were settled for $350,000 to the affected farmers, plus $50,000 to a land-grant agricultural school in each state, earmarked for the study of wheat farming.

"Rather than paying the costs of protracted litigation," said a Monsanto spokesperson, "this agreement puts that money to work in research and development efforts for the wheat industry."

Lawsuits under the business tort known as "market disruption" aren't the most common types used in environmental or land-use litigation, but in this case, it did yield results. Cases against Monsanto related to the discovery of unapproved "Roundup Ready" wheat remain pending in Arkansas and Oregon.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Monsanto Settles With Farmers in Seven States," Joe Harris, March 20, 2015

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