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4-Patents: Argentina asks EU to intervene in dispute with Monsanto



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TITLE:  Argentina asks EU to intervene in dispute with Monsanto	
SOURCE: Reuters, by Karina Grazina
DATE:   08 Mar 2006

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Argentina asks EU to intervene in dispute with Monsanto	

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina has asked the European Commission to
intercede in the country's conflict with biotech giant Monsanto Co. over
royalty payments on the company's Roundup Ready soybean seeds, an
Argentine agriculture official said on Tuesday.

The U.S.-based company has filed lawsuits against soy importers in at
least three European countries and stopped six shipments of Argentine
soymeal in the last year in an effort to enforce its patent rights on
Roundup Ready in Europe.

The company has no patent in Argentina but nearly all local farmers plant
the seeds, genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup. Some
of them buy certified seed, but others buy contraband or legally extract
and reuse the GMO seeds on their own farms without paying royalties.

At stake is nearly $2 billion in annual trade of Argentine soymeal to
Europe. Argentina is the world's top soymeal supplier and the European
Union is its No. 1 client.

"We presented a broad report, explaining what is happening in Europe
regarding Monsanto's stopping of soymeal shipments from Argentina,"
agricultural attaché Gustavo Idigoras told Reuters via telephone from
Brussels.

Idigoras said each delayed shipment costs importers about 850,000 euros
(about $1 million).

In the document submitted to the Commission on Monday, Argentina said
"Monsanto's action is an unjustified obstacle to the legitimate trade of
soymeal" and an abuse of the company's dominant market position, Idigoras
said.

A source at the Agriculture Secretariat explained Argentina's strategy:
"We hope the EU opens an investigation into Monsanto's practices to see
if they are abusive and monopoly-related. And if that is the case, we
hope they will take punitive measures against the company."


Stalemate growing staler

Monsanto has been lobbying for a new royalty payment scheme in Argentina
for the last two years. The company argues that the lawsuits filed in
Europe are aimed at forcing Argentina to recognize Monsanto's right to
charge royalties on Roundup Ready soy.

But the government says the company aims to "set a price that is
different from market prices for biotech soymeal in Europe. That is what
the company is doing when it tries to strike a deal with importers,"
Idigoras said.

Last year, Monsanto offered European importers licenses to import
Argentine soy in exchange for their royalty payments, but no agreement
was reached.

Two weeks ago, Monsanto proposed to the Agriculture Secretariat that it
would stop delaying shipments in Europe if the government pledged to
respect and apply any judicial decision in Europe to all Argentine soy
exports.

"We have not had any type of response," said Monsanto Argentina spokesman
Federico Ovejero.

"We hope that we can sit down and find some kind of solution, but today,
in light of the secretariat's silence, we understand that the only
alternative continues to be legal action," Ovejero said.


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