Following an historic court victory in which Argentine protestors won a court injunction halting construction of a Monsanto GMO seed plant, local authorities have rejected the company's environmental impact assessment.
More about the protestors' court win:
Argentina stalls Monsanto corn project on environmental concerns - update
Wall St Journal, 11 Feb 2014
Monsanto Co. hit another roadblock in its plans to build a 1.5 billion peso ($192 million) corn-seed production plant in Argentina's Cordoba province after local authorities rejected Monsanto's environmental impact assessment.
The project has been on hold since September after clashes with protesters led the St. Louis biotech company to halt construction after completing about 30% of the work.
Monsanto's environmental assessment didn't "identify the relevant impacts and resulting mitigation measures," the office of Cordoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota said in a statement late Monday.
The company said Tuesday it accepted the findings and would move to bring the project in line with the new requirements.
Monsanto "is starting from scratch with the whole process, and preparing a new environmental assessment with new standards," Pablo Vaquero, Monsanto's director of sustainability and corporate affairs for Latin America South, said in an interview.
It will take a month or two to analyze the air, soil, and water at the site and prepare a new assessment, Mr. Vaquero said.
A small group of environmental activists have camped out in front of the Cordoba construction site since September, blocking the road and preventing vehicles from coming in or out.
"The reality is that the environmental groups are opposed to Argentina's farming model," Mr. Vaquero said.
Those protesters celebrated the rejection of the environmental-impact assessment.
"We're overjoyed," Matías Marizza, a member of the Malvinas Fight for Life Assembly told Cordoba radio station FM Las Higueras on Tuesday. "There's no turning back. Monsanto has to go," he said.
Monsanto announced the investment in 2012 but hit resistance from local activists. The new plant in the Malvinas district on the outskirts of the provincial capital would have the capacity to produce 3.5 million bags of corn seed a year--the largest of its kind in the world, according to the company. Monsanto already has a similar corn-seed plant in the Rojas area in Argentina's Buenos Aires province.
Argentina is one of the world's top users of genetically modified seeds for crops such as soybeans and corn. The farming powerhouse is the world's third-largest soybean and corn exporter behind the U.S. and Brazil.
More than 15 years ago, Monsanto started selling soybeans in Argentina resistant to the herbicide glyphosate--known by its commercial brand Roundup. The so-called "Roundup-Ready" technology quickly swept across the famed Pampas farm belt and fueled a major shift to no-till farming. Since fields can be sprayed with glyphosate to kill weeds and not the soybeans, farmers no longer have to plow the fields in preparation for planting. The technique helps preserve soil moisture and slow topsoil erosion.
Virtually all of the soybeans planted in Argentina and neighboring Brazil now are based on Monsanto's seeds or similar ones from other companies.
However, Monsanto was unable to patent the seeds in Argentina and has struggled to try and collect royalties. Under Argentine law, farmers are allowed to hold over seeds from the previous year for planting, thus avoiding going back to seed makers to purchase them each season.
Now Monsanto is trying again in Argentina with a second-generation soybean seed that combines herbicide resistance and another gene that defends the plants from a host of insect pests.
Despite their broad use, there has been significant grass-roots resistance to Monsanto and its technology, both in Argentina and across the globe. In Europe, most GMOs are banned. Nearly a dozen protesters were arrested at the company's annual shareholder meeting in January in St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In the U.S. and Argentina, weeds resistant to the glyphosate are spreading, forcing farmers to use more of the herbicide and to combine other, more powerful herbicides into the mix widely sprayed over the fields each season.