Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Don’t jump gun on RR patent expiry: Monsanto

With eight months to go before the original Canadian patent on Roundup Ready soybeans expires, the agreements growers sign before planting this spring will still apply to the crops they harvest.

To that end, the Winnipeg-based Canadian arm of the patent holder, Monsanto, is “taking additional steps to make sure everyone is aware of what happens when the original Roundup Ready soybean technology patent expires in August of this year,” Mike McGuire, the company’s sales and marketing lead for Eastern Canada, said in a release Thursday.

Contract obligations to not save the genetically-modified, glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready seed from the harvest “remain in effect” this year under Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement, the company said.

Only in 2012 will a farmer have the option to buy certified Roundup Ready seed from a company holding a licence for Roundup Ready soybeans, without any contractual obligations or royalty payment to Monsanto.

A farmer can save seed from the 2012 harvest for replanting in 2013, as long as the seed company from which they buy the seed for 2012 planting has no contractual obligations preventing him or her from doing so.

And only in 2013 will a Canadian farmer may decide to plant Roundup Ready soybeans saved from his or her own seed, the company said.

Also, according to Monsanto Canada’s intellectual property protection manager Erin Romeo in the same release, the company will still operate its Technology Protection Field Check program in 2011, “as a way to help maintain a level playing field for all farmers using and benefitting from this technology.”

Furthermore, she noted, Monsanto’s “next-generation” soybean technology, such as its Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield brand, is covered by a different patent than the first-generation Roundup Ready trait technology.

Thus, she said, any deregulation affecting the use of the original Roundup Ready technology won’t apply to Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans.

“Opportunities and obligations”

The next-generation technology is also expected to form the platform for other products in Monsanto’s development pipeline such as dicamba-tolerant soybeans, low saturate-fat soybean oil and omega-3 soybeans, the company said Thursday.

Monsanto, McGuire said, also acknowledges the company’s ongoing responsibility “to steward existing technologies like Roundup Ready soybeans up to and beyond their patent life.”

For example, the company in recent months has rolled out campaigns and online tools to encourage growers to manage the risks of developing glyphosate-resistant weeds in their fields.

“We’ve made a number of commitments to support the ongoing availability, accessibility and usability of this technology if seed companies, farmers and others choose to use it,” McGuire said.

“However, in doing so, we also want to make sure they have a clear understanding of what their opportunities and obligations are in the post-patent era.”

With that in mind, the company on Thursday launched a new awareness campaign, both online and in a new brochure titled A Guide To Roundup Ready Soybean Patent Expiry, to be made available in the next “month or two.”

Other media, such as ads and point-of-purchase materials, will also be available to farmers and others to learn more about Roundup Ready soybean patent expiry, the company said.

Monsanto’s separate U.S. patent on the same Roundup Ready trait technology does not expire until 2014.

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