Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Argentina suspends talks with biotech giant over GM soya


Argentina, a leading soybean exporter, is suspending talks with US biotechnology company Monsanto Co over a payment system that would allow the company to collect royalties on the pervasive use of its popular soybean seeds, Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos said on Friday.

Campos met with journalists at a press conference to discuss lawsuits recently filed by Monsanto in Denmark over the shipment of Argentine soybean products to the country.

"Monsanto has shown that it continues to be a national embarrassment," Campos said, adding that the lawsuits have already harmed Argentina's farmers and exporters.

"We will fight this, and we'll use the best lawyers we can get to defend ourselves," Campos said.

Tests carried out on the products showed that they were made with Monsanto's genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds, which are used to plant 95 percent of Argentina's soya bseans.

Monsanto has a patent on Roundup Ready in Denmark and in most other EU countries, but it has never been able to patent the seeds in Argentina. This has made it hard for the company to get farmers here to pay for the right to use the seeds.

Monsanto had said it filed the lawsuits "to clarify its intellectual property rights since some parties [in Argentina] have expressed doubt about those rights."

Those rights, and what they imply legally in Argentina, have been the center of heated and often bitter public talks between Monsanto, Argentine officials, farmers and soybean exporters.

At issue is how, and how much, Monsanto should be able collect for the use of its seeds. Monsanto says Argentines properly pay for certified seed only 17 percent of the time, down from 50 percent in 1996, when Roundup Ready was introduced in the local market.

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