TITLE: Protecting Technology and Encouraging Development -and- Misunderstandings, Different Laws Cause Unnecessary Flap Over Basmati Rice AUTHOR: American Seed Trade Association PUBLICATION: Seed Industry Announcements, News and White Papers section of ASTA's website DATE: 22 January 1999 URL: http://amseed.com/documents/ NOTE: TPS is more popularly know as "Terminator technology" Seed Industry Announcements News and White Papers Updated 22 January, 1999 http://amseed.com/documents/ 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 seedsmen interested in learning more about efforts and systems that affect all of us that support and participate in the food system. While ASTA does not specifically endorse any particular technology system, we remain steadfastly 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 such technologies.  PROTECTING TECHNOLOGY AND ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT The Technology Protection System (TPS), developed through the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Delta and Pine Land Company (D&PL), has received significant attention since the patent was awarded last spring. To insure that D&PL employees and others in the agricultural industry have accurate information, 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. North 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, creating 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 world due to lack of protection of intellectual property. Critics of TPS say the technology will limit choices these farmers have. However, it will actually 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 TPS activated plants, as even the pollen, if it happens to pollinate flowers of 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 practiced. 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 is 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 TPS, 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 common type of protection system is hybrid seed production. Although primarily a system for increased yield via hybrid vigor, it is also a protection system. Hybrids are seen in many cross-pollinated crops such as corn, sorghum, sunflower and canola. Reduction in performance and changes from the parent seed leads to little saving of hybrid seed. Farmers, recognizing the value 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 that leads to new and improved products. On the other hand, few germplasm protection systems have been successfully implemented for self-pollinated species, such as cotton, soybeans, wheat and 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. Because 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 private and public breeders today. There is no correlation between TPS and lack of genetic diversity. In fact, with the increased incentive for many private 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 improved versions of germplasm to farmers. Timetable for development Several years ago, a D&PL cotton breeder and researchers from the USDA-ARS generated the idea for a technology protection system during a casual meeting. With research beginning in 1993, it progressed over the next few years to move the concept to reality. In the spring of 1998, D&PL and the 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 everyone's interest that more choices be available to all of the world's farmers, and the TPS is a means of achieving this goal. For additional information Dr. Harry B. Collins, Vice President of Technology Transfer, leads the TPS 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 p.m. CST), faxing 601-742-3795 or e-mailing harry%202.2946(at)mcimail.com.  MISUNDERSTANDINGS, DIFFERENT LAWS CAUSE UNNECESSARY FLAP OVER BASMATI RICE Contact: Gwen Griffen 281-461-4681 or Bruce Hicks 713-942-0002 ALVIN, TEXAS -- Since late 1997, RiceTec, Inc., a small, Alvin, Texas-based rice company has been entangled in an international controversy because of substantial misunderstanding about its patent on new varieties of American basmati rice. In September 1997, after 10 years of classical plant breeding, 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 Andrews, 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 breeding 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" and 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 15 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 and the trade for decades and consumers are familiar with its descriptive use on products such as American basmati, Indian basmati, Pakistan basmati, Uruguay 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 one 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 can 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," he 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 origin 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 available 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 transformation 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 somehow reverse history over the term "basmati," suddenly declaring that basmati can only come from those two countries. However, not only have RiceTec and many other companies outside of India and Pakistan produced and marketed basmati 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 describing 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 registration in the United Kingdom. The trademark action is in government procedural process currently and, although there have been threats, there have been no 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 due to the European Union import levy which discriminates against U.S. specialty rice products in favor of India and Pakistan," said Andrews. Andrews said that despite announcements that India and Pakistan would seek 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 hungry world and reduce land requirements " he said. "RiceTec did nothing wrong in 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."