The Difference Two Weeks Can Make

January 28, 2010

In comments submitted to the Department of Justice and the USDA, Pioneer Hi-Bred calls rival seed company Monsanto’s dominance in the corn and soybean trait markets “an overwhelming monopoly.”

— Brownfield Ag Network, Jan. 12, 2010

DuPont Chief Executive Ellen Kullman told analysts that President Paul Schickler and his Pioneer team “delivered on their commitment to improved profits and market share.”

“We expect the same results this year,” Kullman said.

The $13 billion U.S. seed industry is embroiled in what Kullman described Tuesday as “an incredibly competitive period.”

Schickler on Tuesday exulted in the company’s market share gains of 2 percentage points in corn seed sales and 3 points in soybeans.

Des Moines Register, Jan. 26, 2010

6 Responses to “The Difference Two Weeks Can Make”

  1. Mike Says:

    Huh? DuPont has slightly more market share in corn seeds than Monsanto, and is slightly behind Monsanto in market share for soybeans. Neither firm has more than 40% market share. Kullman herself admits the market is “extremely competitive”. You can’t have “extremely competitive” and an “overwhelming monopoly”.

    Sounds like Kullman needs to get her speechwriter talking to their PR Department talking to their Law firm talking to their funded anti-GM activist groups. There seems to be some confusion over at DuPont/Pioneer.

    I guess DuPont feels it is unfair when Monsanto/Dekalb/ASI, instead of DuPont/Pioneer, develops patents and commercializes seed innovation to benefit mankind?

    Mike (Monsanto employee)

  2. Nate Schroeder Says:

    Oh, come on. Read carefully. DuPont says Monsanto has a monopoly on *traits* while the *seed* market is extremely competitive. I’m not saying they’re right, I’m jsut saying the two statements don’t particularly conflict with each other.

  3. Reagan Says:

    @Mike
    I agree with you. You can’t have “extremely competitive” and an “overwhelming monopoly”.

    Also, you can’t possibly have the words “develop patents” and “commercialize” in the same sentence as “benefit mankind”.

    “I guess DuPont feels it is unfair when Monsanto/Dekalb/ASI, instead of DuPont/Pioneer, develops patents and commercializes seed innovation to benefit mankind?” exudes oxymoronic. It’s logical if you were to say that your company is developing patents and commercializing in seed innovation to benefit YOUR COMPANY.

    It would be reasonable if your company had a patent on, let’s say, newly innovated machine guns. Because machine guns are not natural. But regarding seeds, they are natural. Your company is innovating in a drastic way of how food is being created. Can we please just let nature take its course? It is unbelievable that patents are being developed on something that has been created (“invented”) from day one of Earth’s existence. Patents give you sole rights for something that you invented. And when you invent something, it is completely new. Something that has never been made before. New. Seeds are not new. Seeds are not an invention. A genetically modified organism is not an invention or a discovery, it is a manipulation of something that already naturally exists. How can you justify putting a patent on something that was created long before your company decided to “invent” it?

    I will give it to you, your company has the most intelligent brains collaborating together in the labs to innovate a completely drastic way to how food is created. Even more impressive, you have more intelligent brains in the offices who realized that putting a patent on seeds is a strategic move to COMMERCIALIZE. And if DuPont really does feel threatened by your intelligent business strategies, then maybe their words “overwhelming monopoly” will soon come true for your company.

    This innovative way of ‘creating’ seeds and capitalizing in these PATENTS will give your company financial gain and control, which results in a BENEFIT FOR YOUR COMPANY, not mankind.

    • Ewan Ross Says:

      Reagan

      You absolutely can have the words “develop patents” “commercialize” and “benefit mankind” in the same sentance – even without it being of a negative variety (such as you can’t possibly develop patents, commercialize products and benefit mankind) – unless of course you stand by the rather luddite viewpoint that the vast majority of innovation in the past 100-150 years has done nothing to benefit mankind.

      You can’t really even apply this to genetically modified crops – the patenting, commercialization and release of GMOs has categorically benefitted mankind – and promises to do so in ever increasing fashion as time goes on (reduced impact of herbicides, reduced impact and overall useage of insecticides, increased yields for poor farmers, reduced CO2 production due to reduced inputs, reduced soil degredation due to increased capacity to utilize no-till farming methods – all of which are actual benefits to mankind of GMO utilization (which would not have occurred without patenting and commercializiation)

      On patenting ‘seeds’ – seeds per se are not what are patented, it is the specific useage of a specific genetic construct for a specific purpose which is patented. Your analogy with a machine gun could be used as follows to attempt to explain it:-

      I couldn’t just go out and patent ‘a machine gun’ as machine guns are already out there, have been for over a century now, and knowledge of their manufacture and design is essentially ubiquitous. However, were I to realize that an assemblage of parts from say, a beer can widget, a childrens toy, and an air compressor, inserted just so, into your standard machine gun design, would increase maximum firing rate by 25% while at the same time maintaining accuracy – this, I think, would be a patentable invention – despite all the prior doodads already existing and presumably already having had patents held on them for their specific doodadery.

      Likewise – if I discover that an assemblage of genetic elements (promoter, gene, terminator (for the sake of simplicity) previously unseen in a given species, and potentially from utterly different species, conveys some advantage on a plant when inserted… just so – this is likewise patentable, and likewise should be patentable (there’s a pretty interesting movie about wiper blades and ford which covers the patentability of new assemblages of well known components).

      Not a single crop species today has existed from ‘day one’ of the planets existance – all were domesticated within the last ~10,000 years by humans, with modern corn varieties popular in the US probably not being developed until some time in the last 2000 years (if I remember correctly – this was one of the central points of Jared Diamond’s “guns germs and steel” which I just read, so I’m hopefully not too far off)

      Infact most of the hybrids utilized in modern agriculture today were probably only developed within recent decades (if not sooner) from older varities down through the generations back to when each were essentially pretty meagre ‘wild’ plants – innovation and unnatural meddling are part and parcel of agriculture – leaving nature to take it’s course (making the bold assumption that humans are somehow outside of nature) at any point in the development of agriculture would have left us all (those of us who made it) a lot worse off (unless the hunter gatherer lifestyle particularly floats your boat – it is argueably somewhat more environmentally sound, although giant mammals of 15,000 years ago may not agree)

      In my view patenting and commercialization can lead both to a benefit for the company, and for mankind as a whole – it may not always be the case, but there is absolutely no reason why it may not sometimes be the case (this is essentially why patent law is designed the way it is – to benefit the inventor, and the world at large)

    • Dan (monsanto employee) Says:

      Seeds may not be new, but the ten years of biotechnology and breeding effort that goes into creating a seed product certainly is. Monsanto isn’t patenting “all” corn, just the varieties that it creates.

      There are 6 billion humans on this planet and that number is increasing at an accelerating rate. The amount of farmable land on the planet is not increasing (at least not without the expense of plowing over forests and praries). To simply “let nature take its course” would be to let billions of people face starvation, as was happening in India before the Green Revolution. To many people, including those who work at Monsanto, that’s an unacceptable solution.

      Without patents and the ability to profit from an invention, there isn’t much incentive to innovate at all. That doesn’t just apply to seeds but to all things. Why should Company A sink money into developing faster software if Company B can copy their research afterwards and get the result for free? Now companies A and B both have the same product but B hasn’t spent millions (or billions) in development. A would have been better off just selling the same old slow software and keeping the playing field even.

      You might suggest that people innovate and create new things just for the benefit of mankind and not for financial gain. While that’s certainly a noble vision, it isn’t realistic on the scale of a large industry. Creating one Monsanto product requires thousands of employees from all across the globe putting in 40+ hours of work per week for about 10 years. It’s literally a full-time job and unless they get paid for it those people can’t support themselves or their families.

      Finally, it’s not as if Monsanto products only benefit Monsanto employees. They benefit the farmers who use them as well. If buying Monsanto seed (and paying for those patents) didn’t make the farmers more money, then no one would buy them at all. Buying Monsanto products is a choice and it’s one that thousands of farmers choose to make each year.

    • Cliff Says:

      Let me say that I am not employed by any party involved in this situation.

      I do not fault Monsanto. We are in a free market enconomy here in the USA. In the case of the seed industry private sector companies are filling the void that has been created by lack of research at the university level.

      Over the past several years, patents by the private sector ag industry dwarf the number of patents submitted by the Land Grant University System. As long as the market demands inovation then somone will provide it to them unless we want to enter into a goverment controlled market place. Personally, I don’t want that.

      Bottom line, be it goverments or private industry, those in power need to be held to a certain level of standards. I am not always pleased with the actions taken. However, free enterprise does allow for businesses to either survive, thrive, or die based on their decisions and actions.

      Food supply is a serious matter. The heritage of large gaines in productivity began in the USA. Productvity in other parts of the world like S. America is being raised because of past success here in U.S. I have not seen anyone else step up to the plate and try to raise productivity like I have the farmers of the USA and the companies and co-ops that supply them.


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