The world’s most widely adopted biotech trait, Roundup Ready® soybeans, is set to go off patent soon in the U.S. – the last applicable Monsanto-owned patent is expected to expire in 2014. Although it’s still several years off, we’ve been discussing our thoughts about a post-patent environment for the past several years. These discussions culminated in communications with our seed licensees at the American Seed Trade Association annual meeting, held the first week of December.
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. This is a big responsibility, and we’ve given it serious consideration. The first generation Roundup Ready soybean trait (sometimes referred to as “RR1”) was launched in 1996. 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.
Now, almost 14 years later, the Roundup Ready trait is so successful that farmers have chosen to plant soybeans that use the technology on 9 out of 10 acres in the U.S.
Beginning in 2015, the RR1 trait will be available for use without royalty because all patents in the U.S. will have expired. We sent a letter yesterday to industry stakeholders to notify them of our plans and explain this in more detail. Read the letter here.
I’m interested to see feedback from our farmer customers and licensees.