BUENOS AIRES, May 17 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co said on Tuesday it would suspend future soybean technologies in Argentina, a move that could limit output of the country’s main cash crop, after a disagreement with the government over inspections of genetically modified soybeans.
The dispute blew up after Monsanto asked Argentine exporters to inspect soybean shipments to ensure farmers are paying royalties for using the company’s products. The Argentine government told the world’s largest seed company that such inspections must first be approved by the government.
Argentina, the world’s No. 1 exporter of soymeal livestock feed, relies heavily on Monsanto’s genetic technology to produce soybeans.
The U.S. company issued a statement saying it was “disappointed” that talks with the Argentine government had not yielded an agreement on the inspection issue.
“The company plans to take measures to protect its current assets and will suspend launching any future soybean technologies in the country,” Monsanto said in the statement.
Monsanto officials in Argentina declined further comment.
A spokeswoman for the Argentine agriculture ministry said the country’s rules regarding soybean inspections were designed “to guarantee free trade and property rights.”
“If they (Monsanto) feel threatened, that’s their prerogative,” said the ministry spokeswoman.
Farmers in the South American country have urged the government to resist any attempt by private companies to inspect cargos as a way of monitoring royalty payments.
Argentina last month issued a decree saying the government must authorize any grain inspection, dealing a blow to Monsanto’s push for exporters to check cargoes.
For a year, Monsanto has pressured shipping companies to notify it when crops grown with its technology are slated for export without documentation showing royalties had been paid. (Additional reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Andrew Hay)