The development, testing, and regulation of genetically engineered crops usually takes a significant investment of time and resources, so these crops are patented so that their developers can recoup their investments. Farmers who grow these crops usually pay licensing fees for the use of the technology, and sign license agreements that restrict their ability to save the seeds. Now, a variety of GMO herbicide-tolerant soybeans has been released by the University of Arkansas with no technology fees, and no license agreements to sign. This is possible because the patent for the first genetically engineered trait in soybeans has expired. The world of “generic” or Open Source GMOs is upon us, however, there are still some practical challenges ahead.
It is likely, but not yet verified, that the new soybean variety will be protected under Plant Variety Protections (PVPA), so using these seeds for breeding purposes may still require a license from the breeders at the University of Arkansas. This new soybean variety demonstrates that off-patent GMOs can be useful for the development of new varieties with benefits, however, it would be necessary to have someone release a public variety with this off-patent transgenic trait for there to be truly Open Source GMOs.
The prospect of off-patent Open Source GMOs for public benefit is an exciting one, and is the right and intended outcome of the patent system. However, the enthusiasm for these off-patent GMOs must be reigned in by a looming threat that could jeopardize their continued use – the expiration of approvals in export markets.
Read full, original blog: Off-patent GMO soybeans: What happens now?