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Monsanto may be liable for third-party damage

(Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- OsterDowJones, 11/26/03: BRASILIA --U.S. biotech giant Monsanto may be held partly liable for any environmental damage or economic losses incurred by third parties due to the planting of the company's genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans in Brazil this season, a leading congressman said Nov. 5.

During a meeting in the country's capital of Brasilia, Paulo Pimenta, a federal deputy and sponsor of a GMO bill in Congress, told Richard Greobel, Monsanto's president in Brazil, that the presidential decree, which for the first time freed the use of GMOs in Brazil, would be modified to make the bio-tech firm jointly responsible for any losses along with producers and traders.

If Congress approves the change, farmers whose conventional soybeans are contaminated by GMO from neighboring farms could sue Monsanto for damages Brazil is expected to become the world's largest soybean exporter in 2004 and represents a huge potential market for Monsanto's Roundup Ready.

In September, the presidential decree lifted a five-year court-enforced ban on GMO soybean production, just for the current 2003-04 crop. The decree must now be approved by Congress.

The illegal use of RoundUp Ready has expanded rapidly in the south of Brazil in recent years, but Monsanto have gained little financially.

All this may change this year. Groebel told reporters that Monsanto would attempt to charge producers royalties on GMO soybeans produced in the 2003-2004 season. Pimenta said Groebel had indicated a rate of 1.00 to 1.50 Brazilian real ($1=BRL2.86) per 60-kilogram bag.

The congressman added that the company is in continuing talks with coops in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, where up to 80% of the coming crop could be GMO, according to federal government estimates.

Earlier in the year, Monsanto had announced it would charge royalties from exporters. But trade sources said the negotiations have stalled as trading firms have flatly rejected the idea.

In addition, Pimenta said a clause would be added to the decree prohibiting Monsanto and other biotech firms from selling seeds, dubbed Terminator seeds, that cannot be multiplied for use as seed in future cycles.