Cargill Settles Gene-Theft Lawsuit
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ As part of a $100 million settlement of a federal lawsuit, Cargill on Tuesday admitted to growing Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.’s seed corn in order to isolate unique genetic material for its own use.
Des Moines-based Pioneer sued Cargill and two other competitors in October 1998, saying it had found Pioneer genetics in the other companies’ products.
``This has been a painful period for Cargill; we were shocked that our investigation into Pioneer’s allegations revealed that our seed business hadn’t always lived up to our high ethical standards,″ Cargill Executive Vice President Fritz Corrigan said in a joint statement announcing the settlement.
Under the settlement, Cargill has agreed to destroy the material it acquired from Pioneer, not to engage in the practice of isolating parent seed in hybrid seed corn and to resolve rights to use genetic material that was in dispute.
Cargill has pulled 11 hybrid varieties from the market because of the investigation.
``We have made huge investments in seed research and development and take our intellectual property rights very seriously,″ said Jerry Chicoine, Pioneer president and chief executive. ``Fortunately, Cargill also took those concerns seriously and to its credit did a thorough job of investigating and eradicating problem areas it found in its seed business.″
The Cargill employees involved are no longer with the company, Cargill spokeswoman Linda Thrane said.
Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill sold its international seed business to Monsanto in 1998 and had plans to sell its North American business to Hoechst Schering AgrEvo of Germany for $650 million. When concerns were raised about the seed business, the sale was halted, Thrane said.
``Now that we’ve got a clean slate to work with, we’re going to try and find a good home for our seed business,″ she said.
DuPont bought Pioneer, the world’s largest seed corn company, while the investigation was underway.
At the same time as the Cargill lawsuit, Pioneer also sued Asgrow and DeKalb with the same allegations. Those lawsuits are still in the investigation phase, Pioneer spokesman Doyle Karr said.
A federal judge in July denied a motion from those two companies to dismiss the lawsuit. DeKalb and Asgrow had argued that they had used Pioneer genetics but that they had done so legally.