Piracy Impels Monsanto to Suspend Seed Sales to Argentina
Company seeks safeguards
KEVIN GRAY / AP 20jan04
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Monsanto Co. of Creve Coeur, Mo., temporarily will halt sales of genetically modified soybean seeds in Argentina because of piracy, a company spokesman said Monday.
Argentina is the world's No. 3 soybean producer, behind the United States and Brazil. Nearly all Argentina's soybeans are grown with genetically modified seeds.
Monsanto has been pressuring Argentina and Brazil to crack down on what it says is the increasing illegal use of Monsanto's technology by South American farmers who buy seeds on the black market.
"We are suspending our soybean business ... because it's simply not profitable for us," Monsanto Argentina spokesman Federico Ovejero said. "We remain committed to releasing our technology in places where we can ensure a fair return on our investment."
About half of soybean seeds in Argentina are sold on the black market, Ovejero said. He declined to say how much the company is losing because of pirated seed.
To sell seeds illicitly, farmers growing genetically modified soybeans or other products frequently strip the plants of their new seeds not long before the crops are harvested.
Ovejero said Monsanto was working with Argentine officials to stem illegal cultivation. He said Monsanto would consider renewing production once those safeguards were in place.
The company's soybean seed is engineered to withstand glyphosate herbicide, which saves farmers money by cutting down on the number of workers and weed killers needed.