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UPDATE 1-Soy growers criticise Brazil antitrust ruling on Bayer biotech seed JV

(adds BASF as part of JV)

SAO PAULO, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Brazilian soybean producers’ group Aprosoja, representing 240,000 farmers, on Tuesday criticized federal antitrust agency CADE’s decision to clear a joint venture formed by rivals Bayer AG, Corteva and Syngenta.

The joint venture (JV) was approved by CADE unconditionally last week and offers a platform for the collection of royalties from genetically modified soybeans in Brazil.

The farmers’ group complained that CADE ignored its misgivings about the venture, which it says will perpetuate a royalties collection system long opposed by local growers.

Cultive Biotec, as the JV is known, says it will make more soy biotechnologies available in Brazil. It also said the JV includes the companies mentioned in Aprosoja’s statement as well as BASF, adding it will stimulate competition among biotechnology developers and increase the competitiveness of Brazil’s farm sector, which will have more seed biotechnologies to choose from.

CADE says it strives to maintain competition, guaranteeing the diversity and quality of products and services offered to consumers.

Tuesday’s statement by Aprosoja underscores tensions between soy farmers and biotechnology companies operating in Brazil, the world’s biggest producer and exporter of that oilseed and other agricultural commodities like coffee and sugar.

Starting in 2009, soy farmers began resorting to the courts to challenge the royalties payment system in the Brazilian market, where Aprosoja says farmers pay more for use of the technology than in neighboring countries.

Aprosoja said Bayer holds a virtual monopoly of the genetically modified soy market in Brazil, adding it is now “opening up its royalty collection model to all potential and future competitors.”

Bayer declined to comment.

Currently, Bayer faces direct competition from Corteva Agriscience, which will start selling its own soybean biotech seed in Brazil. In five years’ time, Corteva hopes one third of Brazil’s soy area will be cultivated with its biotech seed product. (Reporting by Ana Mano in São Paulo and Rodrigo Viga in Rio de Janeiro Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)

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