A generics market developed when crop protection products went off patent. The same is bound to happen in seed. Today, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is looking at generics as a key item on its list of future priorities.
“As patents on traits or events expire, our goal is to create a smooth streamlined transition into a generic seed market without violating property rights or interrupting international trade,” says Mike Gumina, ASTA chairman. Gumina is vice president of production and safety, health, environment/risk management for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business.
Gumina says things are very positive for the seed industry right now, but there are a number of things that need work. The priority list of issues to tackle includes patent expiration, coexistence, adventitious presence and phytosanitary regulations.
“The whole concept of coexistence is not new to the seed industry; it’s allowed us to create high quality seed for America’s growers for decades,” he says. “It’s important to have a process in place where all agricultural sectors can be successful in producing their products and benefit from the added value of their efforts. This is a really important topic and one where ASTA is going to be a leader.”
Gumina also touches upon adventitious presence and phytosanitary regulations, which are both about the ability to move and trade seed.
“There are numerous asynchronous tests done on seed for import to different countries and many times these tests result in undue and burdensome regulations,” he explains. “Our goal in both of these areas is to create policies or standards that are parallel from country to country, basically an international standard, while respecting the different global perspectives at the table.
“Having an international standard creates a level playing field for all trading partners that is more predictable and consistent. We [the United States] are the largest exporter of seed in the world and it’s important for players in the global seed industry to have common ground where we can base and justify our decisions.”
Around the world, education is a big part of the picture and hopefully the solution.
“The growing global population requires more food to be produced on fewer acres using fewer resources, which means we need to use technology to our advantage and continue making improvements,” he says. “The tension lies with technology and people’s resistance of it.”
This tension, Gumina says, is the industry’s biggest hurdle to jump. “The industry needs to continue driving technology and increasing productivity, while reaching out and helping others to understand the needs and benefits as well as the consequences — not just for today, but for the future. Technology is not like a tap that you can just turn on and off with the twist of a handle; it’s a stream and you have to keep it coming continually or you’ll lose it.
“Education has to play a pivotal role in easing the tension of technology. We are working on education and outreach at many different levels and need to continue enhancing these efforts.”