Monsanto Co. has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against archrival DuPont Co. The lawsuit, filed last month in Federal District Court in Monsanto’s hometown of St. Louis, is aimed at forcing DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred seed business to dismantle a herbicide-resistant soybean plant that DuPont hopes to begin selling to farmers in 2011. The new seed contains two genes that have been modified to make the plant tolerate herbicides. One is a DuPont gene that allows the soybean plant to tolerate exposure to glyphosate-based weedkiller, as well as to another herbicide called acetolate synthase.
The seed project has long been touted by DuPont as part of its strategy to offer farmers an alternative to herbicide-tolerant soybeans using Monsanto biotechnology. Such crops are popular with farmers because they make weed control much easier. The suit was prompted by the other gene, developed by Monsanto. Monsanto claims in its lawsuit that the 2002 contract that gave DuPont access to Monsanto’s gene prohibits DuPont from combining it with any other company’s glyphosate-tolerant gene in the same plant.
DuPont says that Monsanto’s prohibition on combining its genes with those of other companies to form new seeds, called “stacking,” was neutralized in 2008 when the U.S. Justice Department ordered Monsanto to abandon similar restrictions on cottonseed breeders. DuPont said in a prepared statement that “Monsanto’s so-called ‘stacking’ restriction is one of many practices that Monsanto engages in to limit the availability of competitive products.” It’s DuPont’s position that “seed companies should be able to offer combinations of traits and germplasm without restrictions imposed by trait providers that attempt to limit those combinations.”
There were numerous lawsuits involving Monsanto, DuPont’s Pioneer unit, and other seed companies in the late 1990s and earlier in this decade. This litigation was over control of genetically-modified seeds. Nonetheless, DuPont said it decided to incorporate Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene because the combination increases crop yields.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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