Battle for the seeds between the powerful

Battle for the seeds between the powerful

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When in June 2012 the Argentine government announced its agreement with Monsanto to, among other things, authorize the cultivation of soy resistant to glyphosate and producing the toxin Bt (Intact soybean rr2 pro), it unleashed a battle between the corporation and the big and small soy producers that have not yet concluded and that undoubtedly intends to be the backdrop to take another step in the privatization of seeds.

The authorization of the new soybeans put the Intellectual Property Rights on seeds at the center of the scene since in Argentina two systems that allow privatization and monopoly on them coexist at this time:

- On the one hand, a Seed Law of 1973 (Law 20247) that is still in force and that instituted the Breeder's Rights over the seeds but safeguarding their own use and the possibility of conducting research on the seeds registered with property title. The Law clearly expresses that “It does not harm the property right over a cultivar…. who reserves and sows seed for his own use ”(1)

- On the other hand, in 1996 the Patent Law was modified, approving Law No. 24572, which opened the doors for the patenting of organisms produced through genetic engineering. Although the Law states that “The totality of the biological and genetic material existing in nature or its replication, in the biological processes implicit in animal, plant and human reproduction, including the genetic processes related to the material capable of conducting its own duplication under normal and free conditions… ”at the end of this sentence the complement“… as it occurs in nature ”was added, which would allow the patenting of transgenes introduced in genetically modified organisms (2). It is clear that the seeds cannot be patented, but the transgenes they contain.

Excuse for a new Seed Law

However, the rr soybean introduced in that same year '96 in Argentina did not have any patent application for its transgenes, as recognized by the same company that introduced it. But for the year 2012, with the authorization of the intact Soybean rr2 pro, the modification of the Seed Law was simultaneously announced so that the corporation could receive a remuneration for its contributions in technology.

The various drafts that circulated clandestinely, since they were never made public, clearly showed how the axis was in limiting the “own use” of seeds, by limiting the possibility of “saving seed” for the next harvest, basic right and historical practice of farmers which is the foundation of all agriculture. The various draft bills severely restricted practices that have been in force since the beginning of agriculture, such as freely selecting, improving, obtaining, storing, multiplying, and exchanging seeds from the previous harvest. In addition, in all versions, the doors were opened for the deepening of the expropriation and privatization of agricultural and wild biodiversity and a police system was created to criminalize those who saved or exchanged seeds (3).

However, the announced modification of the Law could never materialize in the face of the resistance that emerged from multiple sectors of society and expressed themselves through campaigns, collection of signatures, mobilizations, hearings, documents and various public expressions. The different versions that were produced within the Ministry of Agriculture were never presented to the National Congress.

The Monsanto Clause

Faced with this uncertain panorama for its interests, Monsanto unilaterally decides to create a User License system for its new soybeans "aimed at ensuring the recognition and respect of the intellectual property rights of new biotechnological inventions applied to soybean varieties" (4) .

Through this License of Use, which is actually an Extended Royalty Agreement, Monsanto imposes on anyone who wants to use the soy to sign a contract valid until November 14, 2028 for which the producer assumes the commitment to pay a consideration for the use of technology and to make the “correct use of technology” each time you re-plant the soybean intact.

This royalty payment is contrary to current legislation, but it did not receive any questioning from the national government and it continues to be sustained since its launch in 2013.

However, soybean producers did not sign this contract en masse and for 2013 and 2014 the planting of intact soybeans multiplied from the commercialization of the grain harvested in the previous harvest, sold illegally as seed.

From there, already in 2015, Monsanto tried to collect royalties by carrying out controls in the silos where the grain is collected for export in the ports of the Argentine coast, unleashing a major conflict due to the refusal of the producers to accept this control. Such was the dimension of the conflict that in May the national government intervened and after a meeting with the parties, reported that it would be resolved through a Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU) that establishes the collection of royalties ( limiting their own use) but that would only authorize the control for the collection of the same on the seed and not on the grains.

This attempt to approve the DNU also had broad social rejection and was harshly questioned and was never broadcast.

So we come to 2016 with a conflict that will intensify in the coming weeks when soybeans begin to be harvested and with a new government in which the alliance with agribusiness (biotech corporations and soy producers) is even stronger than in the previous government (with representatives of the soy producing sectors and Monsanto holding public office).

Added to this is the novelty of a Monsanto agreement with large agro-exporters that undertake to facilitate analyzes in ports to detect the presence of intact soybeans. The Bunge Corporation has already announced that it will begin to carry out the analyzes corresponding to the new system created called “Bolsatech” (5). Based on these controls, it is enabled, always privately, that Monsanto sue the producers to collect their royalties.

The reaction of soy producers

Large and medium soy producers have rejected from their organizations the collection of extended royalties and have resorted to various legal measures to denounce Monsanto for its abuses, without questioning the rest of the industrial agricultural model or its consequences.

During February 2016, the Argentine Agrarian Federation together with the entities that make up the Federated Complex presented an extension of the existing complaint against Monsanto before the National Commission for the Defense of Competition. In it, the complaint was made stating that Monsanto with its measures is abusing its dominant position in the market seeking to achieve total control of the productive, commercial and industrial chain of grain, violating the Seed Law and the Patent Law. The entities affirmed that the company monopolizes the seed market, imposing openly illegal clauses, without the possibility of any defense on the part of the producers, cooperatives or collectors, who are being affected by leonine commercial conditions, which discriminate against the system of commercialization of soybeans, subjecting them to an abusive and illegal system (6).

Meanwhile, the Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA), which groups together the large Argentine landowners, already denounced in 2015 that "Monsanto does not have the Intacta RR2 PRO soy patent" in the voice of its president Luis Miguel Etchevehere (7) . In March 2016, the SRA reported Monsanto to the National Commission for the Defense of Competition. He accuses her of unlawful and abusive conduct in the implementation of the Intacta RR2 PRO seed marketing system. "Under the mask of an alleged voluntary agreement with the producer, and through adhesion contracts, with abusive clauses and contrary to the public order legislation in force in the Argentine Republic, Monsanto obliges the producers to renounce the rights recognized in the Seed Law 20,247, and attempts to collect royalties for alleged intellectual property rights that the law and national authorities do not recognize (as confirmed by the National Institute of Industrial Property, in response to a query from the SRA, in June 2015 ) ", the entity said in a statement (8).

Regarding the impacts of sojisation, the destruction of ecosystems and soils, the contamination by pesticides that the model implies, the displacement of peasant communities and the destruction of regional economies, none of the organizations said a word.

Family and peasant farmers and social movements

The social and peasant movements that question the whole of the soybean model maintained during all these years a radical questioning of the modification of the Seed Law and were central actors in its brake since 2012.

Faced with the attempt to modify the Law by Decree during 2015, the National Indigenous Peasant Movement (MNCI) expressed that what is at stake is a dispute over the social function of the seeds or their subordination to the transnational financial capital. As stated in the statement they released, “yield to pressure from corporations and accept intellectual property over seeds, in a context where transnational companies control more than 90% of that technology, as well as all the links in that chain. (inputs, services, global trade, financial mechanisms) is to go back in sovereignty ”. Furthermore, they emphasize that "own use is an inalienable right for indigenous peasants and family farmers, and to exercise it we do not need to be in any type of registry, nor be treated as exceptions to any regulations" (9).

The Campaign "No to the new Monsanto Seed Law in Argentina" at that same time issued a statement in which it ensures that the announced DNU "advances on an issue that has been receiving criticism and rejection from hundreds of social organizations, workers, of farmers, peasants and native peoples, as well as academics and different political sectors. These multiple sectors resist the appropriation of the common goods of nature ”. Likewise, they emphasize that "with the excuse of fighting the 'White Bag' [the sale of soybeans as grain by producers] it is proposed to have reached a 'consensus' to promote this DNU." However, it is denounced that this is not such as it does not represent the whole of society and that it is "only the consensus of agribusiness to continue imposing its claims." The declaration ends with a call to reject "any decree and any regulation that tries to advance on the privatization of our common goods" (9).

The government's response

Once again, the response of the national government has been the announcement of a new Seed Law, as stated by the Minister of Agroindustry, Ricardo Buryaile to the newspaper Clarín, spokesman for the Argentine agribusiness during the Expo-Agro mega exhibition held in the month of March in the soybean heart of Argentina The Minister said there that "official controls will be strengthened through the National Seed Institute (INASE), to prevent the proliferation of illegal or uncertified seed." And the conclusion is that the underlying solution seems to be a Seed Law that clearly defines the rights of both (10). Of course, in this same Expo-Agro this proposal was ratified and supported by the president of the company, Juan Farinati (11).

At the same time, the other agribusiness spokesman newspaper, La Nación, has just reported that "as it transpired, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, will raise the issue of intellectual property included in seeds in his meetings with President Mauricio Macri." . The agenda for the next few months is thus very clearly marked (12).


This dispute between powerful sectors of agribusiness for the distribution of a part of the immense income that commodities currently offer hides behind the purpose of strengthening corporate control and the commercialization of all seeds.

There are no doubts. In this dispute, the big corporate monsters will reach satisfactory agreements while the Creole and native seeds will continue to be victims of this appropriation. And it will be the peasant women and men, the family and agro-ecological producers who will suffer the consequences of the new regulations that are imposed.

The current situation in India, where Monsanto threatens to withdraw from the market due to the government's intention to “cut the company's quotas for intellectual property” as this implies for the company “increasing difficulties to recover its investments in research and development in modified seeds ”(13) shows that history repeats itself since this was the speech with which Monsanto began its campaign for the modification of the Seed Law in Argentina in 2005.

Faced with the changes that are taking place in Latin America, where a shift is taking place in which the approval of Free Trade Agreements begins to be part of the agenda of the new governments (which are added to those that had already been promoting them such as Chile, Peru, Colombia or Mexico) the exacerbation of the imposition of Seed Laws will be on the agenda.

The case of Argentina should serve as a mirror to be able to fully look at the consequences of a model, the mechanisms that are used to impose the new laws and also the different avenues for resistance that up to now have borne fruit, preventing this advance in law. privatization of seeds.

1- Law of seeds and phytogenetic creations,
2- Law on Patents of Invention and Utility Models,
3- Campaign NO to the new ‘Monsanto’ Seed Law in Argentina
4- Soy intact rr2 pro, License of use,
5- Bunge announced that it will begin to perform seed analysis in Ramallo to detect the Intacta event, -analysis-of-seed-in-branch-to-detect-the-event-intact
6- The Agrarian Federation and its associated entities expanded the complaint against Monsanto,
7- "Monsanto does not have the patent for Intacta RR2 PRO soybeans",
8-La Rural denounced Monsanto before the Defense of Competition,
9- Critical voices around the DNU on the use and ownership of seeds,
10- Seeds: the government will intervene in the fight for royalties,
11- Monsanto was in favor of the discussion for the new seed law, -the-new-seed-law
12- A fight between a producer and Monsanto could hinder the commercialization of soybeans,
13- Monsanto threatens to leave India,


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