South America Calling

Argentina Announces New Soy Inspection Scheme

The Argentine government Thursday announced a new soy testing system in an effort to end its dispute with St. Louis-based biotech company Monsanto.

The government's National Seed Institute (INASE) will oversee inspection of soybean cargoes to check for seed piracy, Agriculture Minister Ricardo Buryaile told a news conference.

"The state will fully control seed marketing to ensure private companies like Monsanto can collect royalties," the minister said.

The Argentine government and Monsanto have been at loggerheads over testing cargoes for the presence of Intacta RR2 Pro seed technology.

Last year, Monsanto had exporters and elevators test unlicensed soy cargoes on their behalf. However, in April, the new government prohibited private inspection, attending demands of Argentine farm groups

In May, Monsanto threatened to stop selling new technologies in Argentina, if it couldn't test.

A Monsanto official said the company would have to review the new testing system before deciding whether to withdraw that threat.

According to Fernando Giannoni, Monsanto's Latin America corporate affairs director, the involvement of INASE in testing is "very positive" but Monsanto still needs to see the resolutions and operating agreements.

Argentine is the world's No. 3 soybean producer.

After seeing its first-generation Roundup Ready technology pirated on a massive scale, Monsanto was keen to ensure royalties on its second-generation Intacta technology.

Since only around 15% of Argentine soybean seeds are bought from licensed sellers, some kind of post-harvest collection system is necessary.

Under Argentine seed law, farmers are allowed to save seed for their own use during the next harvest. But the real problem is the size of the black market in seeds after decades of lax inspection. Due to the illicit nature of this business, it is difficult to work out what percentage of area is planted with irregular seeds but it is very large.

On Thursday, Buryaile said farmers would maintain the right to use seed for their own use.

However, he recognized that the current seed law, passed in 1973, was antiquated and promised a new seed law would be sent to Congress this year.



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