Monsanto Soy Patent Bid Alarms China

An application by Monsanto Corp. to patent genetic blueprints of high-yield soybeans has raised alarm in China, the Associated Press reports.

"This could affect genetic research throughout the world. It’s not good news for anyone," says Chang Ruzhen, chairman of the China Soybean Society and an expert on soybean varieties.

Fears are growing around the developing world that large corporations and Western researchers might use so-called "patents on life" to seize control of potentially lucrative biological resources. The right of companies to patent certain types of plants in the U.S. was reaffirmed this week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The uproar over the high-yield soy patent application surfaced after the environmental group Greenpeace launched a campaign against the patent at the U.N. conference on biodiversity held last October in Germany.

Chinese researchers and state media reports have raised questions about the source of the wild variety of soy used in Monsanto’s research.

Monsanto says it came from a publicly accessible USDA germplasm bank and that the plant isn’t cultivated anywhere in the world.

Chang, of the China Soybean Society, isn’t so sure. "What proof do they have that this genetic marker doesn’t exist in any other species? There’s no way they could have fully determined that. They can’t even access all the varieties," he says.

Editors note: Richard Brock, Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.