A Breakthrough in Farming
Developed over many years and with substantial investments in research and development, Monsanto invented and patented a groundbreaking technology to protect crops from the effects of the non-selective herbicide, glyphosate. Although glyphosate-based herbicides are highly valued by growers because they are effective at eliminating most weeds, they can also damage crops.
Monsanto’s technology involves the insertion of a novel gene into crop seed, such as soybeans, which makes plants grown from the seed tolerant to glyphosate. Planting a field with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® seed allows a grower to spray a glyphosate-based herbicide such as Monsanto’s popular Roundup® on a field, killing the weeds without harming the crops.
Since it was introduced in 1996, the benefits provided by Roundup Ready® technology have made it enormously popular with growers. Today, more than 95 percent of soybeans grown in the United States include the Roundup Ready® technology.
Good for Growers, the Environment
Roundup Ready® seeds provide growers one option to better manage yield-robbing weeds in their soybean field. The Roundup Ready® system has enabled growers to reduce or eliminate tilling as a practice to control weeds. This conservation practice has prevented the release of more than 22 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – equivalent to removing 5 million cars from the road for one year – while helping to reduce soil erosion by 1 billion tons.
In addition, the use of Roundup Ready® has cut on-farm fuel use by 475 million gallons in the past decade while reducing the need for pesticides by tens of millions of pounds.
Making Innovation Feasible
Monsanto makes its Roundup Ready® technology broadly available to growers, but does not authorize them to make an unlimited number of copies of that technology. The only way that a grower may obtain Roundup Ready® seed for planting is to purchase that seed from an authorized seed dealer and execute a Technology Agreement.
The Technology Agreement permits a grower who plants Roundup Ready® seed to plant that seed and grow a generation of soybeans. The grower can then consume the harvest on its own, or may sell the harvested crop through customary distribution channels as a commodity—i.e., to be processed for consumption. But the Technology Agreement does not authorize a purchaser of Roundup Ready® seed to save a harvested crop and replant that crop (which also contains the patented biotechnology) to create another generation of soybeans. The Agreement also does not authorize the grower to sell his crop to another party, such as another grower, for the purpose of replanting seed from the crop to create more new generations of soybeans.
These limitations are particularly necessary for Roundup Ready® soybeans, because soybeans pass along identical copies of the Roundup Ready® trait to their progeny. Plants grown from seeds containing Monsanto’s patented technology will inherit the genetic trait that makes them resistant to glyphosate, as will the progeny of those plants through successive generations.
What’s more, soybeans reproduce at an exponential rate. A soybean plant can produce thirty or more new seeds in a single generation, which means a single Roundup Ready® seed could be transformed into hundreds of thousands of copies in just four years.
Without restrictions on replanting of second- and later-generation soybeans, Monsanto’s ability to protect its patented technology and to recover any reasonable return on its research and development investment would effectively be lost as soon as the first generation of the product was introduced into the market. Legal protection of these patents enables Monsanto to continue investing in technologies that help increase crop yields across the country, keep prices down for U.S. consumers and feed a hungry world.