Monsanto has cancelled plans to launch new biotech soyabeans in Argentina and may withdraw other seeds already sold there in an escalation of its dispute over royalty payments for its seed, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on 17 May.

The US biotech giant argues that royalty collection is essential to make a profit and under its terms of use for its seeds, known as Intacta Soy, farmers have to pay royalties when purchasing the seed or when selling their crop to grain elevators and export terminals. A clause allows Monsanto to inspect shipments for the presence of its Intacta technology to assess royalty charges, which farmers, traders and exporters have branded illegal.

In April, President Mauricio Macri’s Agricultural Ministry banned all tests on grain shipments without prior government approval and its request for more time to push farmers to pay royalties was rejected by Monsanto.

Monsanto now says it will not launch new soyabeans in Argentina, called Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, which are engineered to resist a more powerful weedkiller and which it had planned to begin selling in October.

It will continue selling Intacta RR2 seeds, engineered to withstand glyphosate herbicide and repel worms, but is considering its position in the country.

“We are doing a full review of our business plans there,” Michael Frank, chief commercial officer for Monsanto, told an investor conference, according to a WSJ report on 10 May. “We will be very diligent in our efforts to secure our investments and intellectual property there.”

The newspaper said Argentina was one of the biggest overseas markets for US agricultural firms, growing about 13.6% of the world’s GM crops last year. Its purchases of seeds and pesticides generated about 5.8% of Monsanto’s US$15bn in sales in fiscal year 2015.

Monsanto has also threatened to leave India over royalty disputes as the agriculture ministry there has implemented a cap on the fees that it, and its local partner, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) are able to charge for biotech cotton seed royalties (see Biotech News, OFI May 2016).