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 worldâ€™s largest seed company in its years-long quest to collect royalty payments from the countryâ€™s farmers.
Monsantoâ€™s Intacta soybean seed still lacks full patent approval from the Argentine regulator, Argentinaâ€™s Science and Technology Minister Lino Baranao said .
â€œThe Monsanto issue is very distinctive as Argentina still hasnâ€™t granted the company a patent for Intacta,â€ Baranao said in a telephone interview from Rome. â€œA final decision must surface 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.â€
Monsanto has two valid patents in Argentina for Intacta and four more are pending, Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon said in an e-mailed statement.
The St. Louis-based company hasnâ€™t seen a dime from royalties on its previous seed resistant to glyphosate as Argentine farmers generally avoid paying royalties by using seeds from previous harvests. Monsanto was expecting to collect royalties for about 15 percent of this seasonâ€™s Argentine soybean crop, which is forecast to be 56 million metric tons by the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange.
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 Monsantoâ€™s network of laboratories. To enforce payments, the company is financing several laboratories to detect users of its modified soybeans in Argentine port export shipments.
â€œArgentinaâ€™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,â€ Baranao said. â€œHowever, 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 isnâ€™t the case.â€
Monsantoâ€™s Intacta soybeans are modified to tolerate the application of herbicide and resist insects, offering potentially higher yields. The product was introduced three years ago and is the companyâ€™s fastest-growing biotechnology trait.
Last month Monsanto rejected Argentinaâ€™s request for more time to force farmers to pay royalties on genetically modified soybean seeds. Argentina produces 12 percent of the worldâ€™s soybean crop and is responsible for 7 percent of global exports.