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4-Patents: American Seed Trade Association on terminator and rice patents

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Date:        25.03  16:31 Uhr
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TITLE: Protecting Technology and Encouraging Development   -and- 
Misunderstandings, Different Laws Cause Unnecessary Flap Over Basmati 
AUTHOR: American Seed Trade Association
PUBLICATION: Seed Industry Announcements, News and White Papers section 
ASTA's website
DATE: 22 January 1999
NOTE: TPS is more popularly know as "Terminator technology"

Seed Industry Announcements 
News and White Papers
Updated 22 January, 1999 
The American Seed Trade Association is pleased to provide the following 
information on two emerging technologies that have received significant 
attention since their respective patents were granted: 

* Technology Protection System -- Delta & Pine Land Company/USDA 
* New Varieties of Basmati Rice -- RiceTec, Inc. 
Our responsibility as an organization is to provide timely and useful 
information to those interested in learning more about the emerging 
technologies that are influencing and affecting agriculture, especially 
seed.  Internally and externally, the ASTA seeks to provide educational 
materials and links that update and inform farmers, consumers and 
interested in learning more about efforts and systems that affect all of 
that support and participate in the food system.  While ASTA does not 
specifically endorse any particular technology system, we remain 
supportive of those efforts that provide choice and excellence by farmers 
and consumers alike.  We believe that strong intellectual property rights 
protection is a necessary foundation for those who develop and provide 


The Technology Protection System (TPS), developed through the efforts of 
United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service 
(USDA-ARS) and Delta and Pine Land Company (D&PL), has received 
attention since the patent was awarded last spring.  To insure that D&PL 
employees and others in the agricultural industry have accurate 
we have prepared this information on TPS. 

Why TPS?
This technology will insure North American farmers a more level playing 
field when competing in commodity production with farmers worldwide.  
American farmers have been paying for advanced seed technologies for the 
past several years based upon the value of proven enhancements.  Some of 
these advanced technologies have leaked into other countries without 
payments by the farmers receiving the advantages of these traits, 
an uneven playing field.  

TPS will also stimulate breeding and marketing efforts in countries which 
have not benefited from advances currently available in the developed 
due to lack of protection of intellectual property. Critics of TPS say 
technology will limit choices these farmers have.  However, it will 
result in growers, particularly in Third World countries, having more 
options available to them, including high-yielding, disease-resistant and 
even transgenic varieties.  We expect this new opportunity to present 
farmers in the Third World with the option of moving into production 
agriculture rather than their current subsistence farming. 
Biosafety realized through TPS 

Biosafety produced by TPS prevents the remote possibility of transgene 
movement.  There has been some concern that biotech-derived genes might 
cross to wild relatives. This slight possibility should be prevented by 
activated plants, as even the pollen, if it happens to pollinate flowers 
a wild, related species, will render the seed produced non-viable. In 
addition, the non-viable seed produced on TPS plants will prevent the 
possibility of volunteer plants, a major pest problem where rotation is 

Understanding the system
TPS is a transgenic system comprised of a complex array of genes and gene 
promoters which, in the normal state, are inactive. This means the plant 
normal and produces normal seeds which germinate when planted.  Seeds 
carrying TPS produced for sale to the farmer will simply have a treatment 
applied prior to the sale of the seed which, at time of germination, will 
trigger an irreversible series of events rendering the seed produced on 
farmers' plants non-viable for replanting.  It's important to note that 
like hybridization, will have no effect on the seed product whether for 
feed, oil , fiber or other uses. 

Other Germplasm Protection 

While TPS is a first in biotechnology-based germplasm protection systems, 
there are other means of protecting genetic breakthroughs.  The most 
type of protection system is hybrid seed production.  Although primarily 
system for increased yield via hybrid vigor, it is also a protection 
 Hybrids are seen in many cross-pollinated crops such as corn, sorghum, 
sunflower and canola.  Reduction in performance and changes from the 
seed leads to little saving of  hybrid seed.  Farmers, recognizing the 
added from increased yields, are willing to buy new hybrid seed each year 
instead of saving and replanting seed from their previous crop.  Their 
purchase of new seed each year insures quality and funds new research 
leads to new and improved products.  

On the other hand, few germplasm protection systems have been 
implemented for self-pollinated species, such as cotton, soybeans, wheat 
rice. The difficulty in producing hybrids, combined with costly 
implementation and poor product performance has kept companies from 
investing heavily in some of these crops. 
Farmers to receive choice and benefits 

Farmers will continue to select those varieties which offer the highest 
returns and most benefits to the farmer.  As is currently the case with 
transgenic varieties, farmers will be able to choose from TPS and non-TPS 
varieties.  It is the expectation of both D&PL and the USDA-ARS that the 
benefits realized by planting TPS varieties, carrying advanced technology 
traits, will be significant.  Many farmers will be likely to choose TPS 
varieties when given the opportunity.  

TPS likely to increase research 

TPS will be broadly available to both large and small seed firms.  
of this, it is anticipated that TPS will encourage increased breeding 
research in many crop species and geographic areas.  Consequently, there 
should be sizable improvements in technology. Delta and Pine Land Company 
and the USDA-ARS believe that this is a distinct advantage to farmers 
because they will have better varieties and transgenics more widely 
available to them.  

Genetic diversity in many important crops is a real concern of both 
and public breeders today. There is no correlation between TPS and lack 
genetic diversity.  In fact, with the increased incentive for many 
seed companies as well as universities to breed crops which have not 
received sufficient attention in the past, it is entirely possible that 
diversity will increase as breeders focus on providing unique and 
versions of germplasm to farmers.
Timetable for development 

Several years ago, a D&PL cotton breeder and researchers from the 
generated the idea for a technology protection system during a casual 
meeting.  With research beginning in 1993, it progressed over the next 
years to move the concept to reality.  In the spring of 1998, D&PL and 
USDA were awarded a patent by the US government.  The system is being 
developed further and we expect that it will be a few years before TPS 
transgenic varieties are commercialized.  Though research is progressing 
well, there are no TPS plants, nor have there been any TPS plants of any 
species, growing in a field, anywhere in the world. 

Measuring success 

In the end, it is the farmers who will decide if the TPS and other new 
agricultural technologies have tangible benefits.  Seed companies and 
technology providers are dependent on helping farmers be more successful. 
If a technology does not bring benefits and increased prosperity to our 
customers, then they will not purchase the technology.  It is in 
interest that more choices be available to all of the world's farmers, 
the TPS is a means of achieving this goal. 

For additional information 

Dr. Harry B. Collins, Vice President of Technology Transfer, leads the 
effort for D&PL and is glad to discuss the TPS with media, seed and 
technology companies, as well as individuals. He can be reached at D&PL's 
headquarters in Scott, Mississippi by calling 601-742-4533 (8 a.m. to 5 
CST), faxing 601-742-3795 or e-mailing


Contact: Gwen Griffen 281-461-4681 or Bruce Hicks 713-942-0002 

ALVIN, TEXAS -- Since late 1997, RiceTec, Inc., a small, Alvin, 
rice company has been entangled in an international controversy because 
substantial misunderstanding about its patent on new varieties of 
basmati rice. In September 1997, after 10 years of classical plant 
RiceTec was issued U.S. patent #5,663,484 and that patent touched off a 
firestorm of unnecessary concern in India and Pakistan, said Robin 
president and CEO of RiceTec. 

"This whole flap is totally unnecessary," Andrews said, "and has happened 
only, I believe, because of the laws we have in the United States which 
allow companies to protect their inventions. RiceTec invented a way to 
produce basmati rice in the United States comparable to the best basmati 
grown in India and Pakistan and we received a patent to protect our 
method and seeds. Those countries do not have such laws and, thus, few 
people there understand what they do and don't do.
  "The biggest single misunderstanding . . . regards the term "basmati" 
  a misconception that RiceTec has somehow patented that name." 
RiceTec has produced and marketed Texas basmati and American basmati rice 
-- and labeling it as such -- for 20 years and exporting the products for 
years with no objection ever raised previously, Andrews said of the small 
company which has approximately 100 employees and $10 million in total 
annual revenues. 

RiceTec's patent protects the company's seeds and breeding methods in the 
United States, it does not in any way patent or trademark the word 
"basmati," Andrews noted. "Basmati" is a generic term used by breeders 
the trade for decades and consumers are familiar with its descriptive use 
products such as American basmati, Indian basmati, Pakistan basmati, 
basmati and Thai basmati, he said. 

RiceTec is joined by the major U.S. Rice industry associations in the 
position that the word "Basmati" is generic. The USA Rice Federation and 
of the Federation's charter members, the Rice Millers' Association, have 
adopted official position statements which say,  ". . . the terms basmati 
and jasmine refer to types of generic classes of aromatic rice and that 
these terms cover many varieties and a broad range of qualities
Additionally, these terms are not restricted to products or varieties 
produced in any specific country or groups of countries." 

Andrews said there is a misconception that RiceTec was granted exclusive 
rights to the name "basmati" in the U.S., a misconception that RiceTec 
charge other companies for importing basmati rice into the U.S., and a 
misconception that RiceTec's  patent would prevent Indian farmers from 
exporting their product. 

"All of these and similar misunderstandings have caused undue concern," 
said.  It is unfortunate that those spreading the misconceptions haven't 
bothered to learn the facts or have ignored them. 

In addition to the misunderstandings over the name and what the patent 
protects, Andrews said there has also been misunderstanding over the 
of germplasm and the method of breeding used by RiceTec to develop the 
patented variety. 

The germplasm used for breeding the new lines came partly from the World 
Collection of Germplasm in Aberdeen, Idaho, which is operated by the 
Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of 
Agriculture. The specific lines are identified in the patent and 
to anyone for breeding purposes. And, RiceTec used traditional, classical 
breeding over 10 years to develop the product. The germplasm did not come 
from India and RiceTec did not use biotechnology or genetic 
as has been erroneously reported at times.
  "Just as durum refers to a class of wheat, basmati refers to a class of 
  rice," . . . 
Andrews said that Indian and Pakistani officials apparently want to 
reverse history over the term "basmati," suddenly declaring that basmati 
only come from those two countries. However, not only have RiceTec and 
other companies outside of India and Pakistan produced and marketed 
rice for decades, India's own rice authorities have used the word as a 
generic term for rice of widely varying qualities from many countries for 
many years. For example, a 1979 scientific article from the Genetics 
Division, India Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi by renowned 
Indian rice breeder E.A. Siddiq uses basmati as a generic term in 
fragrant rice from countries other than India and Pakistan. 

"Just as durum refers to a class of wheat, basmati refers to a class of 
rice," Andrews said,  noting dozens of other examples abound including in 
cookbooks by famous Indian chefs and others. 

Andrews said there has been opposition to RiceTec's trademark 
in the United Kingdom. The trademark action is in government procedural 
process currently and, although there have been threats, there have been 
lawsuits, injunctions or other legal actions which have been erroneously 
reported on several occasions.
  ... although there have been threats,  
  there have been no lawsuits ... 
"The fact is that RiceTec has not sold any product in the United Kingdom 
to the European Union import levy which discriminates against U.S. 
rice products in favor of India and Pakistan," said Andrews. 

Andrews said that despite announcements that India and Pakistan would 
some sort of legal action to overturn the patent in the U.S., nothing has 
happened and he does not believe any such attempts would be successful 

''RiceTec has operated honorably for more than 20 years, producing high 
quality products and developing new breeding methods to help feed a 
world and reduce land requirements " he said. "RiceTec did nothing wrong 
its development of this new product and any scrutiny at all clearly shows 
that. It is unfortunate there are some who would use RiceTec to further 
their own agendas."

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