Monsanto Co. has announced it will provide a royalty-free research license to the academic community and other non-profit research institutions to a newly issued U.S. Patent related to the Agrobacterium transformation method.
The announcement, which is expected to benefit the academic community and other crop researchers, has the potential to further advance research and development of new technologies in key dicot crop plants. Dicot crops include major row crops such as soybeans, cotton and canola, as well as specialty crops such as alfalfa, potatoes, tomatoes and sugarbeets.
“We hope that access to one of the leading agricultural biotechnologies can further both the enablement and development of key agriculture solutions for farmers and consumers alike,” said Robb Fraley, Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto Co. and also one of the leading scientists behind this breakthrough discovery.
The Agrobacterium transformation process was first invented by Monsanto scientists in the early 1980s. Today, plant researchers around the world use several transformation methods to introduce novel trait technologies into crop plants – some of the primary methods include the Agrobacterium transformation process and the biolistic transformation process. Through these methods and continued advancements in breeding, plant researchers have been able to develop crops with improved nutritional profiles, plants that can better mitigate the effects of drought, as well as other agronomic improvements such as herbicide-tolerance and insect-protection.
Fraley noted that the continued, successful development of crop products and novel agriculture technologies by both the public and private sector represents an important part of supporting the growing food, feed and fuel demands of our planet and its finite resources. Experts estimate that the agriculture sector will need to double food production to feed a growing global population estimated to be at 9 billion by mid-century.
Products developed through biotechnology have proven to be a valuable tool in protecting and advancing on-farm crop yields for farmers since their initial introduction in the mid-1990s and since that time have generated a number of secondary benefits beyond the farm.
In 2011, nearly 17 million farmers grew biotech crops on approximately 400 million acres in 29 countries around the world. From 1996 to 2010, ISAAA experts note that biotech crops have supported an increase in crop production estimated at $78.4 billion and supported the alleviation of poverty by improving the productivity or income of millions of small-holder farmers. A recent summary report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the European Commission Joint Research Centre highlighted that “models estimate that world food price increases would be significantly higher in the absence of [the] cultivation [of biotech crops], by 10% to 30% depending on the crop and the underlying assumptions.” The JRC-FAO report noted that these “price effect benefits all consumers globally through trade.”
“Royalty-free access to research tools like the Agrobacterium transformation process is critical for solving important global agricultural problems, establishing industry-academia collaborations, and training students,” said David Conrad, Executive Director of NUtech Ventures, a nonprofit organization responsible for building partnerships between the University of Nebraska and the private sector. “We applaud Monsanto for this initiative and encourage other agribusiness companies to adopt a similar approach within the academic and non-profit sectors.”