The biotech industry is under such pressure in its global campaign to force feed us GMOs that it's even having to sort out some of its internecine warfare.
DuPont branch settles corn suit
By RICHARD SINE / The News Journal
The News Journal, 11/30/2004
DuPont Co. subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International has settled a patent dispute over genetically modified corn, and observers said the agreement suggests a new phase in the development of the agricultural biotechnology industry.
In the agreement announced Monday, Pioneer will license technology from Syngenta relating to two insect-resistant corn traits known as Herculex and YieldGard. Pioneer also will drop claims that Syngenta improperly acquired Pioneer genetic material 15 years ago.
Additional terms, including payments, were not disclosed. Both companies said the agreement would have no significant effect on earnings.
In 2002, Syngenta sued Pioneer and other major seed companies over use of its patented method for inserting genes into corn seeds to make them resistant to the European corn borer, a major threat.
To make so-called "Bt corn," scientists insert DNA from a microbe found in soil into the corn plant.
Twenty-seven percent of corn raised in the United States is Bt corn.
A trial involving the remaining defendants began Monday in U.S. District Court in Wilmington. Syngenta is seeking to stop St. Louis-based Monsanto, Mich.-based Dow and Dow subsidiary Mycogen from mar- keting the Herculex and YieldGard traits. Syngenta's North American headquarters is based in Fairfax, where it has a few dozen employees.
Pioneer spokesman Doyle Karr said its settlement with Syngenta indicates the agricultural biotech industry is moving from patent disputes to licensing agreements.
"It's really a sign of a maturing industry," Karr said. "It will allow us to focus on meeting customer needs."
Many important techniques in plant biotechnology are still tied up in patent disputes, said Stephen Howell, director of the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University. That makes it difficult to commercialize new products without fear of litigation, he said.
For small biotechnology companies to break into the field, more patent issues will have to be resolved, or companies will have to wait several years for patents to expire, he said.
The Pioneer-Syngenta settlement and others like it "will allow the industry to move forward," Howell said.
Joel Cohen, of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington think tank, said the patent disputes also have prevented governments and institutes in poorer countries from examining whether genetically modified crops would benefit their farmers.
Settlements will speed the spread of agricultural biotechnology to those countries and free up more money for research instead of litigation, Cohen said.