• Property rights agency still reviewing patent, minister says
  • Approval for Monsanto's GMO soybean seed may miss 2015-16 crop

Monsanto Co. may have to wait months to gain approval in Argentina for a patent on its latest genetically modified soybean technology, another setback for the world’s largest seed company in its years-long quest to collect royalty payments from the country’s farmers.

Monsanto’s Intacta soybean seed still lacks full patent approval from the Argentine regulator, the country’s Science and Technology Minister Lino Baranao said Friday.

“The Monsanto issue is very distinctive as Argentina still hasn’t granted the company a patent for Intacta,” Baranao said in a telephone interview from Rome. “A final decision must emerge soon, but I am not sure this will happen for the 2015-16 crop. We have asked the Institute for Property Rights to speed up the process, but it may take months.”

Monsanto said Saturday in a statement that it has four Intacta patents pending in Argentina and will continue operating the royalty system as it has been implemented there until it can reach an acceptable alternative arrangement with the government. Intellectual property would be respected for each use of patented technology, both inside and outside Argentina, the company said.

“During recent discussions, the Government of Argentina acknowledged that it supports a conducive environment for continued investment and further long-term development of agriculture through recognition of intellectual property rights and private agreements,” Monsanto President and Chief Operating Officer Brett Begemann said in the statement.

Avoiding Royalties

The St. Louis-based company hasn’t seen a dime from royalties on its previous seed that’s resistant to the herbicide glyphosate because Argentine farmers generally avoid paying royalties by using seeds from previous harvests. Monsanto was expecting to collect royalties for about 15 percent of this season’s Argentine soybean crop, which is forecast by the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange to be 56 million metric tons.

Argentina issued a resolution on April 15 that gives the Agriculture Ministry control of the analysis of seeds in the country, a move that would render obsolete Monsanto’s network of laboratories to detect use of its seeds. To enforce payments, the company is financing several laboratories to detect users of its modified soybeans in Argentine port export shipments.

Ministry Approval

“Argentina’s position is that the producer must pay for the use of a patented seed and the repeated use; a logical amount must be paid,” Baranao said. “However, the current conflict stems from the payment method Monsanto is trying to apply that needs to be approved by the Agriculture Ministry, and the necessity of having a patented seed, which still isn’t the case.”

Monsanto’s Intacta soybeans are modified to tolerate the application of herbicide and resist insects, offering potentially higher yields. The seed was introduced three years ago and is the company’s fastest-growing biotechnology product.

Last month, Monsanto rejected Argentina’s request for more time to force farmers to pay royalties on genetically modified soybean seeds. Argentina produces 12 percent of the world’s soybean crop and is responsible for 7 percent of global exports.

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