Farm groups express optimism about Monsanto's RR1 plans, but ask for more

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 9 – [Updated from July 8] In separate statements, Pioneer, National Farmers Union, and the American Farm Bureau Federation all call on Monsanto to provide legally enforceable post-patent provisions for biotech seeds.

In a July 8 letter to farm organizations, Monsanto confirmed that for its proprietary Roundup Ready® soybean trait (RR1) “upon expiration of the RR1 patents, the technology can be used by seed companies and their farmer customers without any royalty payments to Monsanto.” Monsanto also confirmed that it will maintain “international regulatory support for RR1 from 2017 through 2021.”

Monsanto noted that “Soybean breeders and seed companies have development and marketing rights that run through patent expiration, which means they are in a position to offer RR1 seeds as a generic product beginning in 2015.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sees Monsanto's continuing support for its Roundup Ready® soybean trait (RR1) as “a positive first step.” But he wants broader protections for biotech seeds, explaining that:

“Monsanto's statement of extending international regulatory support for RR1 soybeans until 2021is appreciated but there is more to the process of biotech patenting and planning in order to obtain a proper result.

“While this is a positive first step NFU does not believe that this is the sole answer to a timely and enforceable mechanism to ensure that generic competition arrives in biotech seeds as soon as the RR1 patent expires.

“Because the patent for these soybeans expires in 2014, the immediate development of generic-based products or timely access to regulatory data, so that new seeds containing the generic version of RR1 needs to be available to farmers in 2015.

“What Monsanto has outlined does not solve the whole problem of pre and post patent issues. A strategic plan must allow for the empowerment of more readily available development in the biotech industry. It is important to realize that all patented biotech traits face this issue and the non binding agreement Monsanto has mentioned only works with one.

“NFU will continue to work for a process to guarantee generic trait availability.”

Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a hybrid seed developer and supplier, went further in its statement. Calling for “ a legally enforceable means of successfully maintaining foreign registrations through the entire life-cycle of RR1,” Pioneer stated that:

“Pioneer believes in the same principles that our customers have voiced through the May 19th joint statement from the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, and the National Farmers Union: There can be no Roundup Ready® (RR1) solution until and unless Monsanto is willing to provide the industry as a whole with a) immediate access to regulatory data, b) the ability to start product development now on post-patent combinations, and c) a legally enforceable means of successfully maintaining foreign registrations through the entire life-cycle of RR1. Monsanto has been unwilling to make these commitments, either to Pioneer or to the industry, and, as today's statement makes crystal clear, it remains unwilling to do so.”

Reacting to the Monsanto commitments, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman stated Thursday that:

  • “Ensuring a viable international marketplace for biotech crops once their patents expire is a matter of extreme importance to America’s farmers and ranchers. Farmers who choose to continue planting a biotech crop no longer covered by patents, from either purchased or saved seed, must be able to count on those crops being accepted in international markets. Due to the often-shifting sands of international trade regulations, however, maintaining approval for any biotech crop can be an expensive, time-consuming matter.”

  • “That is why we applaud an announcement made by Monsanto that it is willing to extend its international regulatory support for ‘Roundup Ready’ (RR1) soybeans until 2021. The patent to those soybeans expires in 2014. In the short-term, this extension provides additional security to help limit trade disruptions as the agriculture community works toward the goal of maintaining international approval for products no longer covered by patents.”

  • “While this announcement is encouraging, Farm Bureau recognizes the need for a long-term approach to address a future where multiple generic biotech products will exist in the marketplace. To that point, we are committed to working through the industrywide dialogue hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, as well as through other channels as necessary to ensure that generic products are available to our farmers and that those products continue to have marketplace acceptance abroad. We look forward to working with all stakeholders on this issue in a constructive and transparent fashion.”

To read Monsanto's two-page letter sent to farm organizations regarding RR1 soybeans, go to:

To return to the News Index page, click: