Sugar Association seeks dismissal of Corn Refiners’ countersuit

October 31, 2012

On Oct. 29, the Sugar Association, which represents the U.S. sugar cane and sugar beet farmers, filed a motion in a U.S. district court in Los Angeles, Calif., to dismiss a countersuit filed Sept. 7 by four manufacturers of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The countersuit filed alleges The Sugar Association is deceiving consumers into believing that processed sugar is safer and more healthful than HFCS. The four manufacturers—Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill, Ingredion Inc., and Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas Inc.—are all member companies of the Corn Refiners Association.

Attorneys for the nonprofit trade group said the corn processors’ claim represents part of a “campaign to silence all negative commentary about HFCS from the public debate.”

“The Sugar Association has been targeted by ADM, Cargill, and the other corn processors for exercising a cherished right—free speech, which is at the core of the First Amendment,” said Adam Fox, co-lead attorney of the firm Squire Sanders. “As our motion notes, The Sugar Association did not commission any paid advertising. … It is outrageous that these companies are seeking to stifle a legitimate public discussion about HFCS, particularly because they previously said that stopping their own multimillion dollar commercial advertising would be a form of censorship.”

“It is remarkable that The Sugar Association has suddenly stumbled upon the principle of free speech, given how hard they have tried to censor our consumer education program,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association. “Perhaps their newfound belief in freedom of speech will motivate them to drop their self-serving lawsuit to silence our efforts to educate the public about high-fructose corn syrup.”

The countersuit is part of the corn refining industry’s response to an April 2011 lawsuit brought by The Sugar Association charging that the “corn sugar” rebranding campaign financed by the corn processing industry companies constitutes false advertising under federal and state law. The suit argues that the processors’ $50 million campaign was launched as a way to stem declining sales of high-fructose corn syrup.

The Sugar Association press release

Oct. 30 motion (pdf)

Corn Refiners Association press release