As part of today’s first joint public workshop exploring competition issues in the agriculture industry, Monsanto will participate in a panel discussion about the past, present and future of the seed and trait industry. The joint workshop, organized by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, represents an opportunity for Monsanto to offer its perspective on the importance of investment and innovation in agriculture and the valuable role that U.S. farmers are playing in meeting the world’s growing needs.
“Monsanto expects the workshop to highlight a diverse set of views about the state of agriculture and we appreciate the opportunity to participate,” said Jim Tobin, Vice President of Industry Affairs. “The fight to win the farmer’s business is intense and that has translated to not only more profitable choices for farmers over the past decade, but also more value for farmers.”
Tobin noted that Monsanto’s early decision to widely license its technology had made the company’s innovations broadly available to farmers across the country, providing them with another choice as they looked to combat weeds and bugs on farm. The company currently licenses its products to independent seed companies as well as its competitors.
“The innovations in biotechnology and breeding have brought not just more choice, but tremendous value to U.S. farmers,” Tobin said, citing third party research that estimates U.S. farmers have realized $20 billion in extra income in one decade from growing biotech corn, soybeans and cotton. “Farmers have utilized these inventions to garner important benefits such as higher yields, pesticide reduction, time-savings and the ability to adopt conservation techniques in their farming operations.”
Monsanto invested in biotechnology at a key point in the history of agriculture, when such innovative technology was considered a financially risky alternative investment to agricultural chemicals. Now, nearly thirty years after the St. Louis based company’s initial investment, hundreds of independent seed companies offer thousands of varieties of seeds and now dozens of different traits to U.S. farmers. In 2009, hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers utilized these products to produce significantly more using fewer resources for every bushel produced. The use of such technologies is just one reason why the United States is recognized as one of the world’s most productive agricultural markets.
Tobin noted that he expects those investment trends to continue as private sector companies, public sector representatives as well as countries, such as China, continue to invest in new trait technologies for farmers. A recent analysis by the U.S. Grains Council and U.S. soybean commodity leaders suggest that there are nearly 50 new trait inventions currently under development for corn and soybean farmers. These new trait products are being developed by six trait developers as well as the public sector.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important part of ensuring that investment in new products continues for all companies, not only in agriculture but also in other critical U.S. sectors. Tobin said that such protection is important to creating a system by which companies actively invest to meet our global challenges. He noted that stable IP laws and policies provide inventors with incentive to develop new technologies as well as protects those technologies for a designated period of time. Upon patent expiration, those inventions are available to interested parties to invest in as they see fit.
Tobin noted that the availability of post-patent technologies in agriculture will provide a competitive bench mark for every new technology. He said that competition will continue to grow in coming years as the industry prepares for the generic availability of the first widely-planted biotech trait, Roundup Ready® soybeans, after 2014. Monsanto already has publicly committed to supporting the availability of generic Roundup Ready soybeans in a post-patent environment by maintaining the scientific and export regulatory estate for the trait at least through 2017.
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