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Monsanto focus shifting with Roundup Ready soybean patent expiration in 2014

Agriculture.com Staff 12/22/2009 @ 7:44am

The patent for Roundup Ready soybeans doesn't expire for another 5 years, but Monsanto officials said this week the trait will enter the public arena while the company sharpens its focus on the Roundup ready 2 Yield trait, according to company reports.

Starting in 2015, the original Roundup Ready trait (RR1) will be available to other companies without royalty. The trait was introduced in 1996 and Monsanto officials say today it's on 9 out of 10 soybean acres in the U.S.

"As the company that first introduced biotech soybeans to the market, we're also the first company to deal with figuring out what to do next," according to Monsanto public affairs specialist Mica Veihman. "Farmers rapidly began using the technology on their farms because of the improved weed control benefits. We sold soybeans with the Roundup Ready trait in our own seed brands, but also made the decision to license the technology broadly to other seed companies so that they could use the technology in their own varieties of soybean seed that they sell under their own brands. This approach made Roundup Ready technology more widely available, and at the same time gave farmers the option to buy seed from the company of their choice."

The expiration of the RR1 patent will also allow universities to insert the trait into the varieties they take to the marketplace. Meanwhile, Monsanto will continue expanding the Roundup Ready 2 Yield (RR2Y) trait the company introduced last year. For the 2010 crop year, officials expect 65 soybean varieties will include the RR2Y trait.

The end result, Monsanto officials say, will be more flexibility for farmers in deciding which trait they employ in their soybean fields. "Farmers and seed companies will have the opportunity to make their own decisions about the value of RR2Y soybeans compared with RR1 soybeans," according to a letter sent to industry stakeholders this week. "Over the last few weeks, we have confirmed with seed company licensees that they can continue to provide farmers with soybeans containing the RR1 trait through the RR1 patent expiration and beyond. That means RR1 trait licensees can make business plans that make the most sense for their operations and their customers."

The patent for Roundup Ready soybeans doesn't expire for another 5 years, but Monsanto officials said this week the trait will enter the public arena while the company sharpens its focus on the Roundup ready 2 Yield trait, according to company reports.

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