Seed Industry Prepares for Patent Expirations

December 8, 2012 10:48 AM
Seed Industry Prepares for Patent Expirations

The transition from patented seed trait technology to generic technology is about to become a better-defined process with a positive outcome for U.S. farmers.

The Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA), which went into effect in mid-November, will help ensure that post-patent products continue to meet global regulatory and stewardship obligations. It was developed during the past two years through the cooperation of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Seed Trade Association and various stakeholders. Five stakeholders, BASF Plant Science, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto Company, have already signed the agreement, which is a binding contract.

Responsible technology use. The agreement is good news for farmers, notes Mathias Kremer, head of Bayer CropScience’s global seeds business.

"GEMAA ensures that the integrity of the regulation and stewardship of genetically modified seeds will be maintained as events come off patent," Kremer says. "This is one way we can reassure the seed industry and farmers that we believe in responsible use of technology for its entire life cycle. It is exciting that we came together as an industry to proactively address this situation."

DuPont Pioneer president Paul Schickler adds, "Alignment across seed companies on this agreement is an important step for farmers and the agriculture industry."

During the next decade, nearly a dozen biotech seed traits will reach patent expiration, among them the Monsanto Roundup Ready 1 soybean trait in 2015.

"There’s nothing from a patent expiration now that will get in the way of farmers who want to use these products," says Jerry Steiner, executive vice president of sustainability and corporate affairs for Monsanto.

"This has been a process that is broad across the industry and involves the entire value chain—a level of cooperation that’s pretty unusual," Steiner adds.

Proceed ahead. GEMAA, in conjunction with the Data Use and Compensation Agreement, will provide a framework for dealing with the transition of regulatory and stewardship responsibilities for genetically modified seed technology. GEMAA will be overseen by a committee of the signatories, which will be formed by next March.

The ultimate benefit of GEMAA is that when companies develop new technology, the resulting  products will provide another choice for farmers in addition to those products that have gone off patent, explains Monsanto’s Steiner.

"This means that new products will have to compete with the old products—that’s our commitment to farmers," Steiner says.

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