“The Accord” Shows How Group of Committed Citizens Can Impact Policy

There are so many political issues that impact not only the seed industry, but agriculture in general, that it’s important to engage in the political process.  We must let legislators and rule makers know how proposed laws and rules could and do impact our business.  Sometimes they have good intentions, but their laws or rules have unintended consequences.

We can become so involved with the day-to-day tasks involved with running our businesses and farms that it can be difficult to follow issues and anticipate how they might impact our livelihoods.  However, we must make time!  We can’t just rely on paid lobbyists to represent our best interests.  While lobbyists play an important role, they can’t entirely replace a constituent’s voice or vote.

Remember these famous, wise words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

During the Iowa Seed Association’s (ISA) annual meeting last Wednesday in Des Moines, John Latham spoke about several issues of interest to seed professionals in attendance.  Three issues that could have the largest and/or most immediate impact on the seed industry are: (1) the Accord; (2) food labeling; and (3) seed treatment stewardship.

Today I’ll focus on the Accord, which will allow access to seed technologies after a patent on technology expires.  The Accord went into effect on Nov. 15, 2012.  A news release announcing this landmark agreement opens by stating:

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) announced today that the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA) is now effective. Following its launch on October 31, five BIO and ASTA member companies and agriculture biotech providers – BASF Plant Science, Bayer Crop Science, Dow Agro Sciences, DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto Company – have all signed on as signatories.

Why does this matter?  Here’s my personal take…Roundup Ready® soybeans, the world’s most widely adopted biotech trait, is set to go off patent soon in the United States.  Monsanto, which first development this technology, in 2009 introduced second-generation Roundup Ready soybean technology.  This means Monsanto is developing new soybean products based off the Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Yield® technology platform, and Monsanto is licensing this next-generation technology to companies like Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.  Companies like Pioneer and several universities have breeding programs based off the original Roundup Ready platform, so the Accord allows them to continue offering soybean brands containing the original Roundup Ready trait.

The Accord creates a process based on binding contractual relationships, so regulatory and stewardship obligations are maintained.  It encourages innovation among biotech providers as they invest in product development.  It provides technology choices to seed companies like Latham.  And, it means farmers will be able to purchase soybeans with some form of the Roundup Ready trait even after the patent expires.  Win, win, win!