April 15, 2001

Monsanto's Submarine Patent Torpedoes Ag Biotech

Monsanto & Syngenta Monopolize Key Gene Marker Technologies

Note: RAFI's concern about monopolization of gene marker systems and other basic research tools should not be interpreted as support for the technology or for genetic engineering. RAFI is not fundamentally opposed to biotechnology, but we have profound concerns about the way it is being foisted upon the world. In the current social, economic and political context, genetic engineering is not safe, and involves unacceptable levels of risk to people and the environment. For RAFI, the fundamental issue is control. Monopolistic control of marker gene systems, as discussed below, illustrates how a handful of Gene Giants are using intellectual property as a powerful market tool to stifle innovation, shackle public sector research and foster ever-increasing industry consolidation.

A new US patent, awarded to Monsanto on 16 January 2001, has blind-sided biotech scientists and threatens to knee-cap public sector research because it gives Monsanto exclusive monopoly rights on a crucial method of identifying modified plant cells in the laboratory.

US Patent No. 6,174,724 covers all practical methods of making transformed plants that employ antibiotic resistance markers. The technique, though controversial, has been used in virtually all commercial GM crops. The patent is valid only in the United States.


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