* Growers say Roundup Ready soy patent has expired
* Similar ruling in Brazil inspires Paraguayan growers
* Monsanto has defended 2004 royalty agreement
ASUNCION, Feb 5 A group of Paraguayan farmers
asked the courts on Tuesday to stop U.S. biotech company
Monsanto from charging royalties for use of its
genetically modified soybeans in the world's No. 4 exporter.
The farmers say royalty payments should be halted because
the company charges growers about $40 million per year to use
its Roundup Ready soy even though its patent on the seeds has
They were inspired by a similar case in neighboring Brazil
where a state court ordered Monsanto to stop charging for use of
the seed technology.
"There are 34 farmers who are making this presentation
initially but there are hundreds more who agree with it," said
Regis Mereles, head of the Soy Producers' Association.
"The association has proposed ceasing payments without any
prejudice to other negotiations on different strains," he said,
referring to the new soybean technology, known as Intacta RR2
Unlike Roundup Ready 1 technology, Intacta RR2 Pro offers
protection against caterpillars.
A Monsanto spokesman in Paraguay, where the company receives
$4 per tonne of soybeans, declined to comment on the farmers'
The company has defended an agreement signed with farming
associations in 2004 that established payments for the use of
its seed technology, which is present in about 95 percent of the
beans produced in the South American country.
It says the deal was meant to apply until 2014 and argues
that its royalty rights remain in place for as long as there are
valid patents on the technology anywhere in the world.
Paraguay trails far behind neighboring Brazil and Argentina
as a soy exporter, but production is growing steadily and
farmers are expected to gather a record crop of 8.4 million
tonnes this season thanks to favorable weather.