Workshop On Ag Competition Held

The American Soybean Association (ASA) participated in a panel discussion last week on the competitive dynamics of the seed industry during a public workshop exploring competitive issues in agriculture hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and USDA. The panel explored the competitive implications for farmers of significant shifts in the seed industry during the past 20 years in terms of seed price, choice, patents and licensing, and innovation at a workshop held at the Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, IA.

For soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola, farmers overwhelmingly have moved from using conventional seed varieties to seed with biotech-enhanced traits that help farmers better manage weeds and pests that reduce yields. Additionally, biotech-enhanced traits that improve the nutrition of crops or provide other consumer benefits are being introduced. Trait research and development increasingly has moved from numerous and diverse entities such as universities and independent seed companies toward major agriculture biotechnology firms that sell seed through their own brands or enter into license agreements with other seed companies. Patents covering the first commercially valuable agriculture biotechnology traits will expire in the coming years, raising questions about how the marketplace will handle the approaching transition to seed containing generic versions of those traits.

“Technology and continued innovation in the seed industry are vital to the future survival of farming as a viable career and to allowing farmers to feed a hungry world,” says ASA vice president Ray Gaesser, a soybean producer from Corning, IA, and a director and past president of the Iowa Soybean Association. “ASA believes that intellectual property protection and rewarding innovation is critical to maintaining the growth and development of the soybean industry. Over 25 different biotech or new novel traits for soybeans are in the pipeline to be commercialized over the next decade due to strong intellectual property protection and adequate returns on investment to innovators.”

“While supporting innovation, ASA also supports competition in all sectors of U.S. agriculture in order to enhance efficiency and reduce costs to soybean producers,” Gaesser says. “As we have examined issues around seed industry innovation and competition, there is uncertainty in the marketplace surrounding the process to ensure that foreign registrations for biotech traits are maintained once they go off-patent and become generic, uncertainty on access to data packages for stacks containing patented traits, and uncertainty on the terms of licensing agreements and potential restrictions contained within those agreements. This uncertainty needs to be solved, or else soybean farmers fear that both innovation and competition may suffer.”

ASA has expressed concerns arising from the approaching expiration of the first patents for agriculture biotechnology traits and the potential negative impact on soybean and soybean product exports in the event that foreign registrations of biotech traits are not maintained in countries that require them. Additionally, ASA has stated that it desires generic competition to flourish and seed prices to farmers to decline once the patents on patented traits expire.

“The first commercial soybean trait patent to expire will be for Roundup Ready Soybeans (RR1) in 2014, and patents on other soybean biotech traits will be expiring thereafter,” Gaesser says. “No industry, statutory or regulatory process currently is in place to facilitate the continued registration of ag biotech traits in key export markets after patent expiration. ASA favors an equitable industry-led approach to maintaining the registration of generic traits, or a statutory or regulatory approach if an equitable industry-led approach cannot be agreed upon. Such a process is essential in maintaining market access and competition as long as traces of a trait are identified in export shipments.”

There are multiple implications of patent expiration for international trade, including uncertainty about the process to maintain registrations in foreign markets. Soybean producers have learned that once an ag biotech trait is commercialized, it will be detectable for many years after registration is discontinued. Additionally, seed companies and plant breeders interested in offering generic versions of a trait after patent expiration need to know the process and cost of maintaining foreign registrations if they are to dedicate the time, money, and germplasm necessary to bring high-yielding seed varieties to the marketplace.

“ASA also supports enabling trait providers and seed companies to access and use, through agreements or other procedures that provide fair compensation, the data packages of a patented biotech trait for the purpose of preparing to register and commercialize seeds containing “stacks” of new biotech traits along with traits already commercialized,” Gaesser says. “ASA again supports and prefers a private sector approach to facilitate and govern this process. However, if an industry-led approach cannot be agreed upon, then a Federal government approach may be necessary to ensure that both innovation and competition are facilitated.”

“Finally, while license agreements are a common business practice and licensing in the seed industry has made new traits broadly available throughout the seed industry to farmers, it must be ensured that provisions in license agreements do not inhibit competition and continued innovation,” Gaesser concludes. “We need to support innovation, patent rights, and returns on investment, while allowing competition in both generic traits and new traits to thrive. Farmers and all of society benefit when we achieve this balance.”

At the request of the DOJ and USDA, ASA submitted comments in December 2009 expressing specific interest in competition in the seed, rail and fertilizer industries.

Four additional ag competitiveness workshops are scheduled during 2010 to discuss topics within the poultry, dairy, and livestock industries, and to look at discrepancies between the prices received by farmers and the prices paid by consumers.

To learn more about the pipeline of biotech events and novel trait releases, click here.

ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA’s advocacy efforts are made possible through the voluntary membership in ASA by over 22,500 farmers in 31 states where soybeans are grown.

Leave a Reply

Latest News
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Names Protassium+ Sales Director
June 28, 2016
Compass Minerals, the producer of Protassium+ sulfate of potash, has named Scott Johnson director of sales for Protassium+ North America. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe British Leave Vote Impact On EU Agriculture
June 27, 2016
Like virtually everyone else in the world this past week, I’ve watched the global reaction to Britain’s vote to exit Read More
Valent David Nothmann
Crop InputsValent Names David Nothmann Vice President Of Marketing
June 27, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has announced the appointment of David Nothmann as vice president of marketing. Nothmann will be responsible for Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stew…
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Contributes To Mayo Clinic
June 27, 2016
BRANDT, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of specialty agriculture products, has pledged a sizable donation to the Mayo Clinic Read More
ManagementReport: U.S. Farmland Values On Average Continue Gradua…
June 27, 2016
Land price movement has been in the forefront for farmers, landowners, lenders and land brokers for a decade now during Read More
AdjuvantsPrecision Laboratories Introduces Intact Xtra For Use W…
June 27, 2016
Precision Laboratories announces the launch of Intact Xtra, an adjuvant designed for applicators who want to maximize spray applications and Read More
Key Cooperative’s new liquid fertilizer, crop chemical, and seed facility in Grinnell, IA stores 1.5 million gallons of liquid fertilizer and 120,000 gallons of crop chemicals.
Retail FacilitiesKey Cooperative Facility Features The Latest In Murray …
June 27, 2016
When Key Cooperative wanted to improve the overall efficiency at its new state-of-the-art facility in Grinnell, IA, it turned to Read More
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More