CP Editorial: Soybean patent expires, creates more options for farmers

Monsanto’s first-generation Roundup Ready® soybean trait comes off patent this spring. Ever since Monsanto launched their first-generation Roundup seed there has been much debate about whether Monsanto should patent its seeds. Regardless of your opinion over the past debate, the patent expiring will be a positive change for agriculture all around.

It could mean lower prices and more choices available to farmers, according to Roger A. McEowen of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.

As Andrew Pollack stated in a New York Times article in 2009, “Because farmers and seed companies would no longer have to pay royalties to Monsanto on the gene after 2014, Roundup Ready Soybeans would become agricultural biotechnology’s equivalent of a generic drug.”

The patent on the first-generation seeds meant farmers could not save or replant the seeds from previous harvest.

That all changes now, according to Monsanto.com “The first possibility of planting seeds saved from Roundup Ready soybean varieties will occur in spring 2015 (using seeds from the crop planted and harvested in 2014).”

The process is not as easy as it sounds, though. Farmers who want to pursue saving or replanting the soybeans will still need to verify with their seed suppliers to make sure that the kind of soybean they want can legally be saved and replanted.

“In addition to the trait patent, most Roundup Ready soybeans are protected by other forms of intellectual property, such as varietal patents,” according to Monsanto.

Therefore different variety patents will still be active even after the Roundup Ready trait patent expires. Over time this may cause some problems for farmers who do not take time to verify the seed they are saving.

And, this is not all in Monsanto’s hands, seed companies will still have the option to choose what trait they offer to the farmers. For example, they can offer the first-generation Roundup Ready soybean trait or next-generation Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield Soybean trait. Or if they feel necessary seed companies can offer both.

This will give the seed companies an advantage because they can choose what is best for their business and clients.

Another positive aspect of the patent expiring this spring is that there is still plenty of regulatory support from Monsanto. Farmers won’t be alone in this.

The company plans to keep full regulatory support of the Roundup Ready soybean trait through 2021. This support will be global. This is a positive thing for farmers because it will allow them to market their soybeans around the world for the next several years.

So why hasn’t the patent expiration of the first-generation Roundup Ready soybean trait had more publicity? Why hasn’t the general public heard about it? Numerous farmers across the nation have wanted to save seeds in the past and some have been penalized for doing so.

The answer, according to Monsanto — there is simply something more efficient out there. That is Monsanto’s Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield trait technology. This trait technology offers more yield to the farmer, which means more profit. Plus, this new trait still contains the benefits of the original Roundup Ready system.

So there you have it, the next generation Roundup Ready trait is simply more popular and efficient across the board.

So whether or not the new patent expiration benefits a lot of farmers or just a few. This patent expiration means access to great technology that some may not normally ever get the chance to experience. The patent system in our country provides great motivation for new strides in innovation. Believe it or not, patents equal new investments in all types of new technologies. This in turn will help make our biotech companies, U.S. farmers and overall economy more successful.

Erin Boedeker

About the Author Erin Boedeker

My name is Erin Boedeker, I am a Agricultural Education – Leadership major at the University of Missouri. My emphasis within my major is Communications and Science and Agricultural Journalism. I am originally from Elsberry, Mo. After receiving my degree, my hopes are to take my passion and knowledge for agriculture into the city. I hope to work with a public relations or marketing firm, and work with clients to help the public understand the positive aspects of production agriculture. I am excited to continue writing for Corner Post, to help build my portfolio, network and get a more hands-on experience with writing in general.