Argentine farmers say Monsanto soy contract breaks local law
By Maximilian Heath
BUENOS AIRES, April 15 (Reuters) - Argentine farm groups on Wednesday asked soy export companies to stop inspecting cargoes for bootlegged biotechnology at the behest of U.S. seed company Monsanto, the latest move in a long conflict between the country's farmers and Monsanto.
Growers in Argentina, the world's top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, have signed agreements with Monsanto Co. for inspections of soybean shipments to ensure the company receives royalties for beans grown with its Intacta technology.
Under the contracts, farmers must pay the royalties if they use saved seed from prior harvests of the genetically modified beans. Monsanto's Intacta soybeans have a gene that allows the soybean plant to protect itself against crop-devouring worms.
In their statement Wednesday, the farm groups said their crops should not be subject to inspection by anyone but the state.
"Monsanto is trying to control all soy production in Argentina by forcing the payment of royalties under a system that runs contrary to the Argentine legal system," said the statement by the country's top farm groups including the Argentine Rural Confederation (CRA) and Rural Society (SRA).
It went on to ask grains export companies to stop performing soybean cargo inspections on behalf of Monsanto. It also asked farmers to stop signing contracts that permit the inspections and insisted that the government intervene on behalf of Argentina's growers.
A spokesman for the agriculture ministry, which forecasts a record 2014/15 soy crop of 58 million tonnes, could not be immediately reached for comment. The Rosario grains exchange on Wednesday upped its harvest forecast to 59 million tonnes from a previous estimate of 58 million, citing good crop weather.
Monsanto says it is trying to work with farmers.
"In no way is the control system oriented toward charging all royalties on the beans. To the contrary. What we want is for farmers to pay under preferential conditions," said Pablo Vaquero, vice president of Monsanto Argentina.
Argentine growers have long called it unfair to have to pay royalties on crops grown with beans produced on their farms, whether or not those beans were originally planted with genetically modified seeds. (Additional reporting by Carey Gillam; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Grant McCool)
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