Argentina seeks to improve seed technology to compete with Brazil and the US

He agricultural sector was not immune to the new reforms presented by Javier Milei. The national government’s intention is to update current regulations in relation to patented seed technology to ensure that Argentina becomes competitive in a market governed by powers such as Brazil and the United States.

As part of new President Javier Milei’s sweeping reforms to liberalize the economy, seed companies such as Syngenta Group Co. Ltd., Corteva Inc. and Bayer AG could charge royalties to farmers. That would bring investment to Argentina and give the nation access to the latest genetically modified seeds.

An arcane law dating back to the 1970s protects farmers from having to pay annual fees to seed companies. As a result, they have been left behind as Brazil has produced record harvests year after year. Without the newer strains, Argentine soybean yields are approximately 17% lower than those of Brazil and the United Statesaccording to analysts from the Rosario Stock Exchange.

“Changing the rules would be a big step,” specified Pablo Vaquero, a cotton seed distributor. “Argentina has been falling behind Brazil and the US for years,” he added.

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Argentina is typically the largest exporter of soybean meal and oil, the third largest exporter of corn, and one of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat. But its agricultural industry was in steady decline as governments heavily taxed farmers and meddled in exports. The majority of farmers voted for the libertarian Milei in an attempt to reverse the situation.

President Milei’s package includes Argentina joining the most recent global convention — from 1991 — that more comprehensively protects the intellectual property rights of seed producers, but it will face resistance in Congress, where Milei’s party It’s a minority.

While the current situation would appear to save farmers money, it has placed the Pampas crop region in a time warp where they plant obsolete varieties that yield less than their rivals abroad.

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At a soybean conference in September, Juan José Blanchard, head of Latin America for Louis Dreyfus Co., highlighted that the problem with seed technology has contributed to the decline of the agricultural industry.

In his presentation he explained that: “currently in Argentina there are one, two or three serious programs, at most, to improve soybean genetics, while in Brazil there are a minimum of 30. So, if the country does nothing about it , will remain stuck where it is and the gap between Argentina and Brazil in agricultural productivity will become increasingly wider,” he added.

“If the package is approved, the implementation of seed regulations would be at the discretion of local legislators and monetary policymakers,” said Rodolfo Rossi, a former seed scientist who heads the soybean association Acsoja.

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Previous governments tried but failed to charge farmers for seeds raised in one harvest and used to plant the next.

For a few years starting in 2016, Argentina even allowed Monsanto Co. — later acquired by Bayer — to test shipments of soybeans for its Intacta technology and try to collect royalties. In 2021, Bayer withdrew from the Argentine soybean seed business, citing global strategy changes and a reorientation of investments in the country toward “profitable” projects.

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