The US multinational biotech company Monsanto announced in mid-October the temporary suspension of royalty collections on the transgenic soy crop Roundup Ready (RR) in Brazil after a court in the central-western state of Mato Grosso ruled that the patent expired in 2010.
The ruling favored a group of farmers who said the patents on RR soy, which is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, expired two years ago, and because of that, they are no longer obligated to pay royalties to Monsanto.
“With respect to soybean farmers throughout Brazil, and although the ruling applies only to the state of Mato Grosso, Monsanto voluntarily suspended the charge for the use of the first generation of RR soy throughout Brazil,” the company said in a statement.
Brazil recognizes a duration of 20 years for patents on genetically modified seeds from the year it was registered in the country of origin. The RR soybean patent was registered in the United States in 1990, and therefore expired in 2010, but Monsanto managed to renew it through 2014 and maintains that this extension also applies in Brazil.
Fueled by the Mato Grosso court ruling, one of the leading associations of soy producers in Paraguay refused to pay Monsanto royalties on RR soy as well. Also arguing that the patent expired two years ago, the roughly 3,000-member Paraguayan Soybean Producers Association, or APS, declined to pay the US$4 fee per ton for use of the seed.
According to Monsanto, an agreement signed with Paraguayan soy growers in 2004 remains in place. It established payment for the use of RR technology, which is present in more that 95 percent of the country’s soy crops, and is valid until the US patent expires in 2014.
The intellectual property rights for RR soy apply, Monsanto said in a statement, “as long as there are patents in force that protect said technology anywhere in the world, setting 2014 as the end-date.”
“What we want to bring to light is the legality — or not — of the payments,” said Regis Mereles, APS representative, in statements to the press. “We aren’t against the royalties, but what can’t happen is charging [them] for life.”
With roughly 25 million hectares (61.8 million acres) of RR soy planted, Brazil is the primary exporter of this crop, while Paraguay, with 2.8 million hectares (6.9 million acres), ranks fourth.