Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the concerns being raised in every forum that debates the pros and cons of GM crops, is the high rate of royalty farmers have to pay to the seed supplier for using the technology. The recent decision by one of the pioneers of GM technology Monsanto Chemicals of the US not to renew its patent on GM soybean after its expiry in 2014 appears to be a ploy to deflect the on going anti-trust investigation by the concerned authorities.

"The letter countered a widespread impression in the agriculture business that Monsanto planned to force farmers and seed companies to migrate to a successor product called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, which will remain under patent and is more expensive. The issue has potentially broad implications for the agriculture industry because Roundup Ready soybeans will be the first widely grown biotechnology crop to lose patent protection since gene splicing became a mainstay of crop science in the 1990s. Because farmers and seed companies would no longer have to pay royalties to Monsanto on the gene after 2014, Roundup Ready soybeans would become agricultural biotechnology's equivalent of a generic drug.

Such a move may buttress the argument against seed monopolists like Monsanto to some extent but whether this is a one time exception or going to be a future trend remains to be seen. One of the serious reservations about genetically modified foods has been the incorporation of terminator genes that forces the farmer to purchase the seeds from the supplier every time new crops are to be raised, restricting his ability to generate his own seed materials from the previous crops.


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