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Uncertain seed industry

April 2, 2010
Ray Gaesser/President, ICPB

As a farmer with a family business here in Iowa, I have concerns about the uncertainty of the seed trait industry, both in the United States and globally, that directly impact my business now and in the future.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently held a workshop in Ankeny to explore competition issues in agriculture, specifically addressing issues concerning seed traits.

I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion during the workshop.

There is uncertainty in the areas of licensing agreements, registration issues and future traits. We need a system for maintaining international regulatory approvals post patent in order to assure critical export markets aren't jeopardized when a patent expires, so plant breeders can be confident in improving the yield potential of the Roundup Ready 1 trait.

I am concerned that this uncertainty will result in stifled innovation, reducing U.S. farmers' ability to compete in a global marketplace. Future traits will benefit farmers and consumers alike. For example, soybeans will soon be the source of a variety of heart-healthy oils.

While I am confident there will be new seed technologies available to us in the future, I am concerned about preserving the investments farmers have made in Roundup Ready 1 technology, which will soon go off patent.

Even though Monsanto offers Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology, I believe farmers should be able to capitalize on the generic technology to benefit from a decade of investments (via technology fees) in this trait, which I estimate at $700 million investment per year in the United States alone.

Looking to the future, I believe a model should be established that would ensure the smooth adoption of future traits.

Most importantly, U.S. farmers take their responsibility of feeding the world very seriously. The growing global population means that agricultural production will need to increase while using the same amount of land and water.

Therefore, technology advancements must continue to be made to meet growing global food demand.

I am concerned about these issues, but would prefer the industry solve its problems on its own, with public guidance if private solutions are not possible.

The seed trait industry should support innovation by protecting patent rights, support farmers by making the generic Roundup Ready 1 trait available after patent expiration, and support consumers by safeguarding existing domestic production resources and encouraging competition for future innovation.

 
 

 

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