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2 Plants: Argentina OKs Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO corn

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Argentina OKs Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO Corn
SOURCE: Reuters, by Hilary Burke;jsessionid=5VQMA
DATE:   14 Jul 2004 

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Argentina OKs Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO Corn

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina, the world's No. 2 corn
exporter, has approved planting of genetically modified Roundup Ready
corn even though top crop buyer Europe still shuns it, government
officials said on Tuesday.

The long-awaited decision has sparked hope among Argentine farmers of a
corn crop revival similar to Argentina's GMO soybean boom after the
introduction of Roundup Ready soy. Monsanto Co. developed Roundup Ready
crops resistant to glyphosate herbicide to make production cheaper and easier.

The European Union, the top buyer of Argentine corn, has not approved
Roundup Ready corn for consumption. But in May, the bloc lifted a five-
year ban on new GMO foods when it authorized imports of another GMO
maize, known as Bt-11.

"This approval will not endanger human health or our commercial
interests," Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna told reporters, adding there
is a clear "favorable tendency" in Europe toward this particular GMO corn.

Many farmers have switched to GMO soy in recent years to capitalize on
high international prices and lower production costs. Now they will have
an incentive to plant GMO corn.

Corn area has shrunk 20 percent in the last four years to just 2.9
million hectares, while soybean area grew 250 percent in the last decade,
reaching a record 14.2 million hectares.

The government hopes more farmers will plant Roundup Ready corn and
introduce crop rotations to stem soybeans' steamroller expansion.
Soybeans are grown on nearly half of Argentina's cultivated lands.

Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos said the corn's introduction would be
gradual, starting with just 10,000 hectares this year. The planting of
the 2004/05 corn crop begins in August.

Biotech crops are a hotly debated issue and opposition is stiff in many
places around the globe. Argentina's production of GMO crops is second
only to the United States, and some 95 percent of Argentine soybeans are

Argentina last approved a new biotech crop three years ago, when it gave
the go-ahead to GMO cotton.

Argentina is expected to export 8.5 million tons of 2003/04 corn,
trailing well behind top exporter the United States, according to U.S.
Department of Agriculture data. U.S. farmers are already growing Roundup
Ready corn.

Monsanto Argentina applauded Tuesday's announcement.

"The government's decision marks a turning point and contributes to the
creation of public policies on biotechnology," Alfonso Alba, Monsanto
Argentina's president, said in a written statement, adding that the move
would stimulate investment.

In December St. Louis-based Monsanto stopped selling soybean seeds in
Argentina, the world's No.3 soybean producer, citing a huge black market
in GMO seeds that made it impossible for the firm to recoup its investments.

Soybean seeds can be culled from new plants and reused with no
significant drop in yields. While Argentine farmers are allowed to reuse
their own seeds, it is illegal for them to sell such seeds to others.

Corn seeds cannot be reused without risking wildly variable yields, which
means each year farmers will have to buy new seeds -- presumably from
authorized seed dealers.

(Additional reporting by Juana Ines Casas)


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