Farm groups ask biotech firms to adopt patent expiration strategy

By Stewart Doan

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, May 19 – The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), American Soybean Association (ASA) and National Farmers Union (NFU) are urging biotech trait providers to adopt a common strategy to ensure that farmers can continue to plant and export crops derived from biotechnology once trait patents expire.

Lobbyists for AFBF, NFU and ASA circulated a joint statement during a private meeting Wednesday with representatives of BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta to convey farmers’ concerns about competition and innovation in the biotech seed industry.

 “Since our farmers have a significant stake in ensuring that a timely resolution is realized, we wanted to share with you our thoughts on this subject,” the groups say in the statement, which was obtained by Agri-Pulse. 

The Roundup Ready soybean trait (RR1) is scheduled to go off-patent after the 2014 growing season.  Monsanto has pledged to maintain full global regulatory support for the first generation technology through at least 2017. Yet to be decided is who will assume the responsibility for obtaining international export approval for RR1 beyond 2017 and the guidelines governing pre-expiration access to other patented traits that aren’t broadly licensed.

“Our members are eager for our organizations to work with the technology providers, regulators, and others to resolve these issues in a satisfactory and timely manner,” says the statement, which adds that any resolution must be enforceable.

“We were happy to participate in the meeting” Monsanto said in a statement, because “we believe it is a top priority to ensure an international approval process to keep export markets open for farmers as long as needed and to have an open path for seed companies and universities to enter the generic market as soon as patents expire.”

Monsanto and other trait providers are currently working through the Biotechnology Industry Organization to find common ground on issues involving the expiration of biotech crop patents. 

While the current focus is on soybeans and other open-pollinated crops, “all crops are different, notes Syngenta, which does not have proprietary traits in soy now, “so the discussion will be different for each.” 

In a statement following the meeting, the company said that any solution to post-patent issues must take into account legal and regulatory considerations. 

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