What Does Licensing Mean to Monsanto?

By K. Sauer 8/4/2010

You’ve heard what our licensing partners have said about why licensing germplasm and trait technologies is critical to their businesses, but what about Monsanto? As a company, Monsanto has been involved in out-licensing germplasm for 13 years. It dates back to 1997, when we purchased Holden’s/Corn States.

The collaborations with our germplasm customers have continued to develop during this time, and at ASTA’s 2009 Seed Expo, Monsanto reiterated its commitment to licensing now and in the future. Brett Begemann, Monsanto executive vice president of seeds and traits, and Jim Hedges, president of Corn States, spoke to an audience of licensees and outlined the path toward the future.

“We’re committed to this licensing business,” Begemann said. “We’re going to stay committed to the licensing business. It’s core to our strategy.”

Hedges, who was once a Corn States licensee himself, echoed Begemann’s sentiments.

“We believe in you as seed partners not only now, but well into the future,” he said. “We believe in supplying you with industry-leading products and services that will enable your customers to produce more using less resources.”

The Future of Agriculture

“As we look at what changes have happened in agriculture over the last 20 years, it is absolutely incredible,” Hedges continued. “As an industry, the yields of tomorrow are being brought forward today by all of us. And with your continued partnership, we’re going to do that well into the future.”

But one thing’s certain – it’s not always going to be an easy road.

“There’s a lot going on in agriculture right now,” Begemann said. “To me, that’s exciting. But it’s challenging, and it brings a whole new set of challenges along with it.”

Population growth, increased demand and the need for renewable energy sources are a few of the many reasons agriculture will continue to play a leading role in finding solutions for current future problems in the world.

“That is the compelling reason to continue to invest aggressively and drive yield in the big commodities we do – in corn, soybeans, cotton, and in the future, wheat and sugarcane,” Begemann said. “We believe that premise to be true – that the world will continue to demand more of those grains. So, we believe our whole concept around more yield, same acres, fewer resources is still appropriate.”

Tomorrow’s Technologies Today

Two products leading the way in Monsanto’s commitment to double yields and reduce inputs by 2030 are Genuity™ Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybeans and Genuity™ SmartStax™ corn.

“My bet is they’re going to perform really well next year,” Begemann said. “They’re going to be all-stars. Four years of data doesn’t lie.”

More importantly, they’re two products farmers asked for, and now Monsanto and Corn States licensees are able to deliver them to their farmer customers. Farmers have asked for reduced refuge requirements for years. Genuity™ SmartStax technology is delivering that. And more traited products on more acres means more profitability for farmers.

Farmers have also asked for soybean technologies that can provide higher yields – much like corn technologies have brought them in recent years. Genuity™ Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans are doing just that. In fact, they’re providing a 3.6-bushel increase over competitive products with Roundup Ready® technology.

But according to Begemann, more is coming, and it’s going to start coming faster.

“I’ve been in the seed business since we started acquiring seed businesses,” he said. “It’s been a pretty exciting time. We spent the first 12 years talking about three traits in corn and one in soybeans. In the next five years, we’ll more than double everything we have in soybeans and corn. It’s going to come faster. Genetic improvement is coming faster than we’ve ever seen because we’ve got better tools to work with.”

In the coming years, technologies that will make farmers more profitable are going to hit the market – products that increase yields, reduce inputs, and minimize the impact Mother Nature can play on a crop. One of the most important aspects of launching these technologies is ensuring farmers have access to them in the brands they choose to plant.

“It’s important to [farmers] to know they’re going to continue to be able to access some of the things we invest in and intend to bring to the marketplace,” Begemann said.

That’s where Corn States licensing partners will play a critical role.

“We understand the relationships you have built with your customers and have earned over time – just as we understand we’ve got to do the same thing to strengthen our relationships with each and every one of you,” Hedges said. “We’re absolutely committed to making sure we help your businesses succeed as we move into the future.”