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North Dakota Seed Certification Lawsuit Settled for $600,000

A North Dakota lawsuit involving seed potato certification has been settled out of court for $600,000.

The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs on two claims: negligent inspection and negligent publication, according to information from Ken Bertsch, North Dakota state seed commissioner.

The plaintiffs claimed that the state certified a seed lot as Red Norland when the seed actually was Red Norland Strain 72. The seed, then, failed to perform as expected.

The seed originated in Minnesota and, according to Bertsch, was mislabeled at prenuclear generation.

Sarah Vogel, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the misclassification of the potatoes appeared in July 2003.

“Strain 72 potatoes mature approximately two to three weeks later than Red Norland,” Vogel said. “It has 70 percent b-sized potatoes and has very much difficulty holding skin.”

According to information from Bertsch, certification programs are based on visual inspections with laboratory testing as a backup and currently no testing technology exists to differentiate between varieties and their selections.

“Despite the plaintiffs’ claims, this is an issue of the variety being certified accurately by the rules and under standard certification practices,” Bertsch wrote in an e-mail, “but with the inevitable result of the mislabeling falling on the shoulders of the certification agency.”

“We felt that this was a pretty good settlement and we were prepared to go to trial and were ready to do so,” Vogel said. “At the end of the day in a civil lawsuit, the issue is about money, which is what we would have received from the jury.”

Originally posted Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006

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