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Jul 21, 2010

EU Court Supports Argentine GM Soybean Exports in Patent Dispute with Monsanto

European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg
On 7 July 2010 The Wall Street Journal reported that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had ruled on 6 July 2010 that European Union (EU) patent law could not be used to bar imports of products made from biotech ingredients that are patented in the EU but not in the exporting country. SciDev.Net also reported on the story on 21 July 2010 providing additional details from the Argentine perspective.

The case concerned the EU importation of Argentina of soy meal made from soybeans that are gene modified (GM) for herbicide tolerance to the weed killer glyphosate. These soybean seeds were developed and patented in the U.S. by Monsanto. They are known on the market as Roundup Ready soybeans.

Following Argentina's rejection of Monsanto's patent application for Roundup Ready soybeans, Monsanto stopped selling RoundUp Ready seeds in that country. However, Argentine farmers have continued to use RoundUp Ready soybean seeds saved from the previous years' crop, without paying any royalties to Monsanto. They have sold the resulting soybean crops for processing as GM soy meal and exported it to the EU.

In 2005, Monsanto filed a complaint in the Netherlands against two EU importers (Alfred C. Toepfer International and Cefetra BV) who were purchasing the Argentine GM soy meal. The argument was based upon the fact that while Monsanto may not hold patent patent rights to the GE RoundUp Ready soybeans in Argentina, it does have them in the US and in the EU. The Dutch court referred the case to the ECJ based in Luxembourg.

The ECJ's decision concludes that under EU intellectural property law, patent protection on GE seeds does not extend to products such as flour and oil. According to a press release issued by the ECJ, "A European patent can only be relied on in relation to an invention which actually performs the function for which it is patented."

Alberto Díaz, director of the Industrial Biotechnology Center at the National Institute of Industrial Technology in Argentina articulated his country's position in the case noting that, "That a derived product of soy contains 'residual DNA information' means that there are some 'prints' of the resistance genes that made the live plants resistant to the herbicide, but these are not active in the soy meal."


For more see:

García, Laura. "Argentina wins Monsanto GM patent dispute in Europe," SciDev.Net, 21 July 2010

Miller, John. "Monsanto Loses EU Patent Case," The Wall Street Journal, 7 July 2010.

European Court of Justice, Court Ruling In Case C‑428/08, 6 July 2010.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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