Monsanto to debut new GMO soy in Brazil, pending China
"With Roundup Ready we didn't have the conditions to launch the technology in Brazil, there was no legal security and the soy came in through Argentina," Santos said.
Farmers say Roundup Ready's patent expired in 2010 in Brazil but Monsanto argues it should be able to charge royalties on the technology through 2014, when the U.S. patent ends.
An upper court judge rejected Monsanto's request to extend the patent last month and the company agreed to stop charging royalties until the dispute is settled. Monsanto had been charging farmers 22 reais ($11) per hectare.
Producers harvest nearly three tonnes of soy per hectare on average in Brazil. Royalties charged on Intacta will likely be higher because the pest-resistant technology saves farmers money on chemical sprays.
"Monsanto already appealed to the Supreme Court and the court has agreed to hear the case," Santos said. "We expect the patent in Brazil to have the same validity as it does in the United States."
He declined to say how much Monsanto could have to pay farmers if the court rules against it, but said local media reports that put the number at 2 billion reais were "way over estimated".
While the case makes its way through the courts, Monsanto is negotiating agreements with individual farmers, offering licenses for Intacta technology in exchange for an agreement to drop lawsuits over Roundup Ready royalties.
Monsanto has invested $1 billion in Brazil in the past 10 years, where it focuses on technology for soybeans, corn and cotton. It may also launch sugar cane biotechnology in Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer. The country is starting to ban the practice of burning cane fields, its traditional pest-control measure.
As a top global exporter of coffee, meat and orange juice as well as soybeans, corn and sugar, Brazil is widely expected to take on the role of feeding a growing global population.
Santos, who was Monsanto's Vice President in Brazil until January, said opposition to genetically modified crops had declined significantly in Brazil, where agriculture accounts for 22 percent of gross domestic product.
"People here know a highly technical, productive agriculture is essential because of the important role agriculture plays in the economy," he said.