| BUENOS AIRES
BUENOS AIRES Dec 20 Argentine soy farmers and
the companies that sell them genetically modified seeds could be
close to a breakthrough in negotiations after a months-long
deadlock that prompted Monsanto to stop selling new GMO
technology in the country.
The negotiator representing seed companies in talks with
farmers over a bill pending in Congress said on Tuesday that
both sides are ready to move toward a deal that would extend the
period of time that growers would have to pay royalties on
genetically modified seeds.
The government-backed bill says farmers will pay royalties
for three seasons after the initial purchase of GMO seeds. But
the companies want royalties to be paid for a longer period,
according to Alfredo Paseyro, the negotiator for ASA, the group
representing seed companies including Monsanto Co.
"The three years proposed by the government is not adequate
because it takes longer to develop new seed varieties," Paseyro
told Reuters on Tuesday.
"The time during which royalties have to be paid will have
to be negotiated in a way that works for both the seed industry
and the farmers. The good news is that now both parties are
willing to negotiate," Paseyro said.
The results of the negotiations will be incorporated into
the bill that will be debated and voted on by Congress.
Soybeans can themselves be used as seeds. Seed companies say
that planting second-generation genetically modified beans
without paying royalties is an intellectual property violation.
Monsanto has said it is not selling new technology in
Argentina until a royalties deal is reached. This threatens to
put Argentine farmers at a disadvantage against their Brazilian
and U.S. competitors.
"We are willing to negotiate an extension of the time
frame," Daniel Pelegrina, vice president of the Argentine Rural
Society, recently told Reuters. The group represents some of
Argentina's biggest producers of farm products.
"Seven seasons. Five seasons ... we'll see what the right
number is to motivate companies to come up with new varieties,
new genetics, and sell that seed technology to us," he said.
The new flexibility signals a possible solution that would
help Argentina increase soybean production, expected at 52.5
million tonnes this season.
The country is the world's No. 1 exporter of soymeal, a
livestock feed, and the third biggest exporter of raw soybeans.
Almost all the soy grown in Argentina is genetically
modified. Most of the seeds are bought on the black market or
GMO beans used as seeds without paying royalties.
(Writing and additional reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by