Monsanto's war against the world goes on, even with those countries that have approved its products.
South American ministers refuse Monsanto royalty plan
Reuters, April 4 2005
BUENOS AIRES - Farm ministers from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay -- the world's top soybean exporters behind the United States -- on Friday shunned a bid by US biotech pioneer Monsanto to charge royalties on genetically modified soybeans when they are harvested.
Royalties "should only be charged when farmers buy seeds," said a statement issued by Argentina after a special meeting of the Southern Agricultural Council in Cartagena, Colombia at the request of Argentine Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos.
The meeting arose from a protracted battle between Argentina and Monsanto over GMO soy royalties. Chile's Agriculture Minister Jaime Campos also attended, as did lower-level Uruguayan and Bolivian officials.
Monsanto officials in Buenos Aires declined to comment. The St. Louis, Missouri-based company wants Argentine farmers to pay technology fees for its herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybeans.
The statement did not refer specifically to soybeans, and could include other crops such as wheat.
Argentina approved Roundup Ready soy for planting in 1996 and Monsanto used to embed the royalties charge into soybean seed prices.
But because the black market for soy seeds is so great, the company stopped selling such seeds altogether in 2003. Many other companies continue to sell soy seeds containing Roundup Ready genes, however, paying licensing fees to Monsanto.
Only 20 percent of Argentina's $1 billion, annual soybean seed trade is legal.
Months-long talks to set royalties collapsed last month when Monsanto warned Argentine exporters it aimed to impose a $15-per-tonne fine on Argentine shipments of Roundup Ready beans in European nations where the gene is patented.
In February, the firm had proposed a $1-per-tonne charge on Argentine soy and soy derivatives in 2005, rising to $2.50 per tonne between 2006 and 2011.
Argentina's Campos responded by threatening to take Monsanto to court if it levies fines in European ports.
Campos, who insists technology fees should be charged as part of the seed price, rallied five neighboring countries to his side. South American officials "urged farmers in the region to reject accords to pay any kind of royalties compensation on harvested grains," the statement said.
Last month, farmers in Paraguay agreed to pay royalties to Monsanto for Roundup Ready soybeans grown this season. But the company has yet to reach a national accord in Brazil, where GMO crops were just recently approved.
Argentina has drafted a legislative bill to crack down on the illegal seed trade.
On Thursday, Campos met in Colombia with US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who expressed concern over Argentina's lack of royalties payments, according to a statement issued afterward by Argentina's Agriculture Secretariat.
Johanns said this puts US farmers who pay royalties at a competitive disadvantage. But the Secretariat statement said Campos replied that US subsidies on farm production and exports are even less fair.
© 2005 Reuters Limited.