Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Growing Influence Of Chinese Law

Imagine a company ("AgCo") complies with all relevant United States laws in inventing, producing, marketing, and selling seeds of an innovative genetically-modified corn plant ("UberCorn") within the United States.  Imagine, further, that farmers buy those seeds to grow corn whose kernels subsequently mix with kernels from other breeds of corn in common storage facilities owned by an agricultural commodities trading company ("TradeCo").  If TradeCo then ships that corn mixture overseas to China, where the entire mixture is banned from importation due to the presence of some UberCorn, does TradeCo have a legitimate cause of action against AgCo for "contaminating" the corn mixture with UberCorn?  Such a drama is currently playing out in the Louisiana 40th Judicial Court Cargill, Inc. filed suit against Syngenta on September 12, 2014, for allegedly violating its duty of care to the corn industry by selling its genetically-modified, insect-resistant Agrisure Viptera (MIR162) corn in the U.S..  I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Reuters' Andrew Chung for an article on this case published on September 16, 2014.  Agrisure Viptera was approved in the U.S. for commercial cultivation in 2010.  However, China has not yet approved the import of this variety of corn.  A state court just west of New Orleans now must grapple with a fascinating legal issue:  can Chinese law trigger liability in the U.S. for actions taken in the U.S. that comply fully with U.S. law?  Like corn, the influence of Chinese law is also growing around the world.