Replanting Roundup Ready

WITH THE PATENT EXPIRING ON RR SOYBEANS IN 2011. FARMERS WILL SOON BE ABLE TO SAVE AND REPLANT SEED WITHOUT BREAKING THE LAW

as the first company to patent and commercialize a genetic trait in commercial agriculture, eyes are on Monsanto as they also become the first company to deal with the expiration of a patent.

The first generation Roundup Ready soybean trait (RR1) was patented in 1991 and as Canadian patent law stipulates, it expires 20 years later. Come August, 2011, RR1 will be the first widespread plant biotechnology trait scheduled to go off patent. According to patent law, it is not possible to extend the life of a patent and Monsanto has made it clear that they have no intentions to try.

With the patent expiring, everyone wants to know when they will be able to replant seed with the RR1 trait without breaking the law. As patent law and contract law is in effect when it comes to RR1 technology it is not as clear as the 2011 date implies.

 “The first season that a farmer could plant and grow Roundup Ready soybeans without any obligation to Monsanto would be 2013,” explains Trish Jordan, Public Affairs Director of Monsanto Canada. As the beans bought in the 2011 season are sold under contract, farmers are required to deliver all seed back to the elevator. That same contract also stipulates that farmers cannot save and re-use seed from the 2011 crop.

If a grower chooses to buy new RR1 seed in 2012, the seed yielded from this crop  could then be saved and re-used for the 2013 crop, explains Jordan.

Monsanto has also confirmed that seed companies that have a current Roundup Ready soybean license have the right to produce and sell original RR1 soybean  seed once the patent expires. In addition, seed companies and universities who choose to work with the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield will also be able to continue to sell varieties with original Roundup Ready after the patent expires.

Stay tuned to your seed dealers and Monsanto representatives for further information as it becomes available. Being the first, the handling of this patent expiration will most likely set the stage for the future of many genetic traits. •