The government of Argentina has approved US biotech giant Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, NK603, for planting in the country.

The move comes despite the fact that the European Union, the top buyer of Argentine corn, has not approved the corn for consumption.

The NK603 corn is genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans and cotton are already approved for planting in Argentina, as are its insect-protected corn and cotton.

Monsanto said Roundup Ready corn will be available to growers this autumn in limited quantities of Monsanto’s branded corn seed for the 2004 planting season in Argentina and should be available more widely in the 2005 and 2006 growing seasons.

“The new approval in Argentina indicates that the major crop-producing countries around the world continue to recognise the safety and benefits of biotechnology agricultural products,” said Brett Begemann, Monsanto’s executive vice president of international commercial.

Monsanto said the size of the potential market in Argentina will be affected by the company’s ability to receive import approvals for Roundup Ready corn in other parts of the world, notably Europe.