Argentina permits new soybean seed as EU debates weed-killer glyphosate

FILE PHOTO: Soybeans are loaded onto a truck at a field in the city of Chacabuco April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina authorized on Friday the use of genetically modified soybean seeds resistant to herbicides other than glyphosate, as the European Union (EU) debates whether to extend the license of weed-killers containing the ingredient.

The EU debate comes amid concerns the active ingredient in Monsanto Co’s popular weed-killer Roundup causes cancer. That has caused concern in the South American country, the No. 1 exporter of soybean meal and soybean oil and No. 3 raw soybean exporter, that its exports to the EU could be in jeopardy.

In a statement, the Agriculture Ministry said the SYN-000H2-5 seed needed different herbicides which had not raised health concerns around the world. Syngenta AG and Bayer AG had requested government approval for the seed.

“This is of great importance given the rise of resistant weeds and other potential limitations to the use of the glyphosphate herbicide,” the Ministry said.

The EU granted an 18-month extension to glyphosphate in July 2016 pending further scientific study after failing to agree on a proposed 15-year license renewal.

It was not clear if a potential glyphosate ban in Europe would impact shipments of soy-based products from Argentina, Gustavo Lopez, director of Buenos Aires-based consultancy Agritrend, told Reuters.

Argentina shipped 7.5 million tonnes of soybean meal to European countries in the first nine months of 2017, data from government statistics agency Indec show. The country’s producers are expected to plant 16.8 million hectares of soybeans for the 2017-18 crop.

Last week, Monsanto and U.S. farm groups sued the state of California for requiring cancer warnings on products containing glyphosphate.

Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Susan Thomas