Battle Over Seeds Heats Up in Argentina

Battle Over Seeds Heats Up in Argentina


The debate over the reform of Argentina’s seed law has pitted transnational corporations that make transgenic seeds against social and rural organizations and academics opposed to the expansion of monoculture in defense of biodiversity and food security.

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Over a year ago, the agriculture ministry said it would present a bill to overhaul a 1973 law on seeds that was modified several times to accommodate the expansion of monoculture and genetically modified seeds since the 1990s. GM soy is now Argentina’s chief export.

But the ministry has not yet introduced a bill, although it has two drafts. Argentina’s seeds association, which represents biotech companies, supports the ministry’s efforts to draw up a new law.

However, the proposed reform has drawn criticism from those who see it as an attempt to restrict farmers from saving or selling their own seeds for further planting.

The companies argue that the world requires higher crop yields per hectare to meet the growing demand for food. They also say a law to regulate and control the market for seeds would guarantee the recovery of the investment made in research and development of GM seeds.

But those opposed to the expansion of GM crops say they undermine biodiversity, increase agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change, and threaten the survival of rural families, who carry out the important task of selecting and storing the best seeds for replanting.

In Argentina, the world’s third-largest producer of soy, around 98 percent of the crop is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, which is resistant to the company’s own glyphosate herbicide.

In addition, 80 percent of the maize grown in Argentina is transgenic.

The U.S. biotech giant plans to build a new plant to produce GM maize seed in the central Argentine province of Córdoba in 2014, which will produce 60,000 tons of seed a year.

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