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Soy imports delayed as Argentina fights Monsanto over GM

By staff reporter , 18-May-2006

Argentina's government joins a group of meat producers in Denmark in a court battle against Monsanto over genetically modified soy, one that has led to imported supplies being held up at the EU's ports.

The court case, originally brought against meat producers and processors by Monsanto, highlights the problems arising from strict patents relating to genetically modified (GM) crops and other ingredients used as feed in the EU. Currently GM crops can only be imported as feed into the EU.

Monsanto brought the court case against the Danish importers, alleging they were importing soybeans from Argentina derived from a Monsanto-made seed, whose patent is recognised in Europe but not in Argentina.

In the ongoing dispute customs officials in Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands and Spain have temporarily detained some soybean shipments after Monsanto asked them to take samples of such shipments to prove that they were made with the company's seeds, according to a press release by Argentina's Agriculture Secretariat.

Customs officials began halting shipments from 26 May last year, when samples were taken at a port in Copenhagen. In the Netherlands, shipments were also delayed beginning 16 June. Since the beginning of this year five other soy shipments coming from Argentina were also held up at different ports in the Europe, the Secretariat reported.

Monsanto's actions and court suit in Denmark, filed in September last year, are part of a bid to eventually get Argentina's farmers to pay royalties for the right to use its seeds. Monsanto also filed a similar suit in the Netherlands on 14 July.

Monsanto is demanding that the importers pay about $15 (€11.7) per tonne to the company as a compensatory fee when importing soybeans from


Argentina. The fee would be compensation for its inability to collect royalties in Argentina, Monsanto argues.

But Argentina is fighting Monsanto's actions. This week a judge in Denmark gave Argentina permission to join the Danish importers in defending themselves against the Monsanto lawsuit, filed last year, according to a statement from the country's Agriculture Secretariat.

The seeds, known as Roundup Ready, are allegedly used to plant about 95 per cent of the soybeans in Argentina.

"This gene was not patented in Argentina, thus, belongs to the public dominion," the Secretariat stated in a press release this week.

Up to 90 per cent of the €1.6bn worth of soy imports into Europe is used to feed animals. Importers in the Netherlands include Nidera, Cefetra, Nutreco, Cebeco, Provini, Cehave, the Hendrix Meat Group and Dumeco.

Monsanto dominates the $5.6bn (€4.4bn) global market for GM crops.

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