Monsanto, a leading maker of farm seeds, asked Spanish customs officials to inspect samples of soybean meal products recently shipped to that country from Argentina as part of a broader effort to force Argentine farmers to pay for the right to use Monsanto-made soybean seeds.
Monsanto wants authorities to study the samples "to determine whether the shipment contains unlicensed technology."
"If so," Monsanto said, it "will [pursue] patent infringement proceedings in Spain in respect to the shipment."
Monsanto has tried for two years to get the Argentine government to help address Monsanto's claims that Argentine farmers properly pay for the company's Roundup Ready soybean seeds only about 20% of the time. Often the seeds are bought on the black market or replanted after each harvest. That, Monsanto says, is unacceptable.
In June, Monsanto began filing lawsuits over the shipment of soybean products to the European Union. Many EU nations recognize Monsanto's patent on the genetically modified seeds, which are used to plant 95% of the soybeans in Argentina. In contrast, the Argentine government has never allowed Monsanto to patent the seeds.
"Unfortunately, despite two years of discussions the parties have failed to conclude an agreement to pay for the [Roundup Ready] technology which has delivered $1 billion of value per year over the last 10 years for the Argentina economy, and significantly more supply choices for European customer," Monsanto said in a statement.
Argentine Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos has slammed Monsanto, saying its effort to collect royalties on soybean seeds show that it is a "greedy" company that cares little for the well-being of local farmers. He has said the company's lawsuits in the EU are equivalent to "extortion."
The European feed industry, which imports up to 10 million tons of soybean meal annually from Argentina, last year called on the government and farmers here to resolve this dispute so that it doesn't affect trade with the EU.
Monsanto says negotiations with the Argentine government and local farmers have so far proven ineffective. "A new crop is about to be harvested, the third harvest since discussions have taken place," the company said. "Since no agreement has been reached yet, Monsanto has no other choice but to ensure the protection of its rights and therefore file legal actions on a shipment-by-shipment basis."