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ECONOMY | 10-02-2022 20:57

Argentine biotech pushes for soy strain spurned by top buyer China

Bioceres Crop Solutions Corp wants the government to approve large-scale production of its drought-tolerant soybeans even if China won’t give the green light.

Argentine biotech company Bioceres Crop Solutions Corp wants the government to approve large-scale production of its drought-tolerant soybeans even if China, the South American country’s biggest client for unprocessed beans, won’t give the green light.

Argentina authorised the HB4 soy strain back in 2015 pending import approval from China. Now, after a fruitless wait, the company is growing impatient. It’s lobbying the government to give the technology the unconditional go-ahead – even if that may create problems to sell to the Asian giant, which has been bolstering its trade and investment influence in Argentina.

“I think it’s enough time to make a decision,” Chief Executive Officer Federico Trucco said on an earnings call, noting that China has recently been favouring local seed technologies over foreign ones. “So I think that the case can be made for a time limitation on the Chinese clause, particularly for a technology that’s already been approved in the US, in Brazil, in Paraguay, in Canada – so most of the relevant production geographies – without any kind of consideration for the Chinese regulatory process.”

“We do expect Chinese approval to come, but we are taking a more pro-active stance with the Argentine authorities to try to remove that restriction and to be able to freely commercialise HB4 soy in the upcoming season,” Trucco said.

A spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry didn’t immediately comment.

The remarks highlight the feisty approach Bioceres is taking toward expanding its business, with Trucco saying in a recent speech that he’d prefer to fail at groundbreaking work than succeed at something ordinary.

The company’s genetically-modified wheat strain, which also tolerates drought, has garnered harsh criticism both at home and abroad at a time when the world is grappling with drier growing conditions but remains wary of directly consuming GM products. One of the biggest worries domestically is that the GM wheat will contaminate shipments to countries that haven’t approved it, forcing those buyers elsewhere.

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by Jonathan Gilbert, Bloomberg

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