Monsanto leaking millions in patent revenue, claims group

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Monsanto, Patent

Biotech giant Monsanto has lost millions in international royalty
payments and is trailing its major competitor, Pioneer, in US
department of agriculture genetically modified (GM)-crop field
trials, according to a Canadian pressure group.

The claims, which come just days before chief financial office Terry Crews will announce the company's year-end results, are designed to unsettle investors in a firm that has long been the target of critics of growing corporate power.

"Poor International Patent (IP) protection in the developing world, increased competition at home and a saturation of the US marketplace cannot help but shrink earnings in the coming years,"​ said Polaris analyst David Macdonald.

Polaris insists that since 2002, Monsanto has lost $545 million in international royalty payments, resulting in fewer tests of new products for its agribusiness pipeline. In addition, with a patent challenge to its insect-resistant Bt transgenic traits from Dow Agrobusiness, it says that the company's intellectual property rights are by no means secure.

According to Polaris, Monsanto makes about $400 million off its Bt traits annually in the US alone.

"Investors should be wary of a company betting its earnings on GM technology,​ said Macdonald. "The future is not at all certain."

Other industry commentators however are more sanguine about the company's fortunes.

The company certainly enjoyed some good news earlier this week, after an agreement between Monsanto and Brazilian seed-industry body Abrasem over the genetically modified seed Roundup Ready was clarified. Shares in Monsanto rose 5.8 percent on the back of this.

"We believe we have the necessary rights we need to continue to commercialize our current Bt products and to continue developing the Bt projects in our pipeline,"​ a Monsanto spokesperson told​Monsanto is now confident that its Roundup Ready soybean patents have protection until August 2007, leading some industry commentators to paint a more optimistic picture of the firm's future.

"The market evidently bought Monsanto's side of the story,"​ said investment journal Motley Fool​ recently. "The firm is managing its pipeline well. In soybeans alone, it is likely to market new varieties with higher protein and/or oil content within three years.

It could be noted also that Polaris has an agenda in casting Monsanto in the worst light possible. The organization believes that "transnational corporations [have] effectively secured control over the reins of public policy making in this country [and elsewhere] to the point where citizens were becoming politically disenfranchised."

In addition the group states its aim as "developing the kinds of strategies and tactics required to unmask and challenge the corporate power that is the driving force behind governments concerning public policy making on economic, social and environmental issues."

Nonetheless, it is clear that the issue of international patents, which has always been contentious, will rumble on.

"Monsanto is racing against time to create new offerings to replace sales of items losing protection,"​ noted Motley Fool. "And as is the case with drug companies, the loss of a patent can leave a huge hole in revenue."

"The whole episode suggests that investors need to pay close attention to Monsanto's pipeline."

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