The patent for the original Roundup Ready (RR1) soybean trait is set to expire in 2014. That fact has raised all kinds of interest and questions, starting first with what it means for farmers.
Late last year, Monsanto worked to explain our intentions. Lately, several groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have asked about the regulatory issues involved, because the scientific and export regulatory “estate” for a genetically modified trait like this one has to be maintained. If the estate is not maintained, farmers won’t be able to use the trait. We said last fall that we’d continue to maintain the “estate” for RR1 for at least three years after the patent expired.
Recently, we sought industry leadership to develop a comprehensive process for patent expirations for technologies like RR1 (there are a number of them going off patent after ours does in 2014). Early in February, the Food & Agriculture section of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a trade association, agreed to take this on. We presented a draft concept on how we thought this could be achieved, involving both how to maintain the regulatory estate for technologies post-patent and guidelines for adding or “stacking” new traits to ones whose patents have expired.
But it’s still very early in the process. We think it’s a great idea to involve both farmers and government in this process at BIO, for two reasons. They both have a critical stake in the outcome, and their perspective and involvement is vital to achieving a comprehensive and balanced solution.