In a surprising turning point in the world of genetic modification, the European Patent Office has already revoked the 13-year patent agricultural giant Monsanto on the genetic modification of soybeans.
The patent was said to be responsible for giving the agricultural giant about 90 percent of the market for GM soybeans. The European patent was said to be too broad in scope by many scientists that it was able to give Monsanto control over most of the development and creation of GM soya.
The patent covered a particular method of inserting foreign genes into soybean cells through firing tiny inert particles that contain foreign gene sequences at high speeds in the hopes that the cells of the mother plant will be able to take up the foreign material and propagated to produce stable altered genetic lines in its next generation.
The patent had other objections from other GM companies in that it contain a claim that is unfairly broader than the method or technique that was used to develop new GM soybeans. This can be explained better in the patent’s claim 17 which claims that,
"A soybean seed which will yield upon cultivation a soybean plant comprising in its genome a foreign gene effective to cause the expression of a foreign gene product in the cells of the soybean plant"
From this statement, it can be surmised that Monsanto’s patent is able to cover all genetic modified soybeans since all GM soybeans have foreign genes added into its altered genome. The probable reason why this patent was even ever approved is because at the time of the patent submission, nobody else was known to be employing the type of method stated in the patent. This brought about a patent that many people in the industry saw as unfair because it prevented other companies from developing their own GM soybeans.
But now that the 13 year old patent has been revoked by the EPO, it has opened the way for other companies to be able to develop their own GM soybeans and employ the techniques and methods being used by Monsanto. But questions still remain as to where this development may lead genetic modification.
Would it help fast track the development of GM soybeans that will make them more acceptable for more farmers? As have been the experience, Monsanto haven’t been able to develop a GM soybean strain that that has totally trouble-free. Would other companies do the same too?
The other problem would be that some companies may try to take advantage of the situation and develop GM strains haphazardly to the detriment of the world at large. It seems that until GM companies take more responsibility of their actions by putting safety first before profits do they have the chance of being able to come up with GM crops such as soybeans that the people in the agriculture sector would heartily embrace.
But until then, genetic modification would always be seen as a two sided coin tossed in the air, with no one not being able to predict the likely outcome when the coin lands.