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Serving: United States

Who owns Bt corn, RR cotton?

Syngenta has filed two separate lawsuits against some of its largest competitors in the seed industry. The company’s legal action asserts that YieldGard and Herculex insect-resistant corn and Bollgard and Roundup Ready cotton fall within the scope of its patent rights. The first suit covers Syngenta’s claim to rights over synthetic Bt genes that make corn plants resistant to insects such as European corn borer. The second suit is broader, claiming that Syngenta has rights to commonly used methods of transferring genes into plants using Agrobacterium.

The lawsuits ostensibly seek to stop Monsanto, DeKalb Genetics, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Delta and Pine Land, Dow AgroSciences, and Mycogen Seeds from selling products containing or resulting from the disputed technologies. That could give Syngenta’s NK seed a near monopoly of seed technology that has gained wide popularity with farmers.

Should farmers worry? Probably not. The seed industry has a consistent history of making technology deals, not to mention a vested interest in increasing the market’s acceptance of genetically modified seed technology. Consequently, insiders speculate that it is likely that a win by Syngenta on these patent disputes would lead the company to seek patent royalties from its competitors, ultimately allowing continued access to the technologies through various companies.

There will be plenty of time to speculate on the outcome. First, Syngenta has to win what promises to be a difficult battle against some determined competitors.

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