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The New York Times today has a good story about Monsanto, anti-trust and the pending expiration of patents on the company’s Roundup Ready 1 soybeans. The patents expire in 2014 and Monsanto has issued a letter saying it will allow farmers to grow these beans even after that date. “The letter countered a widespread impression in the agriculture business that Monsanto planned to force farmers and seed companies to migrate to a successor product called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, which will remain under patent and is more expensive,” writes Andrew Pollack.
These are the first seeds to lose patent protection since gene splicing came into widespread use in the 1990s. As Pollack explains, “Because farmers and seed companies would no longer have to pay royalties to Monsanto on the gene after 2014, Roundup Ready soybeans would become agricultural biotechnology’s equivalent of a generic drug.”
Pollack notes that Monsanto’s concession comes as the Justice Department considers anti-trust action against Monsanto.