Posted on April 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM by Iowa Corn
On April 11, 2013, Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co. agreed to cross license insect and herbicide resistance traits to each other. Dow has agreed to license its EnlistTM trait, which confers resistance in corn plants to the 2,4-D herbicide, and Monsanto has agreed to license its third generation Corn Rootworm III trait. Herbicide resistance in corn means that farmers can spray the entire field with a herbicide and kill all the weeds without affecting the corn plants. This allows for better control of weeds. Corn rootworm is a serious pest of corn that feeds on the roots. Having a trait in corn that resists corn rootworm insects reduces the need to apply chemical insecticides on corn fields.
Why are Dow and Monsanto sharing traits with each other?
By cross licensing, it gives both companies access to the other’s trait. Monsanto didn't have 2,4-D resistant corn and Dow didn't have Monsanto’s next generation corn rootworm gene. The plan is for each of them to put the other company’s trait into their corn hybrids and sell them. This means they will still be in competition with one another but apparently both companies saw enough value in the other company’s trait that a swap made sense for both.
Why is this good for farmers?
The farmers benefit because these traits will now be available in a wider range of products and farmers can choose the hybrid of their choice. Also, by stacking more than one herbicide gene together, such as Roundup® and Enlist, it gives the farmers more options for controlling weeds. Farmers can use a combination of different herbicides to better control problem weeds.
Another advantage of stacking multiple traits is that it should help avoid resistance developing in weeds to a given herbicide or for rootworm resistance from developing to a trait when more than one mode of action is present in every plant.
David Ertl is the Technology Commercialization Manager for Iowa Corn. He is responsible for developing new technology, obtaining intellectual property (patents) and out-licensing of technology to commercial providers. Prior to joining Iowa Corn, he was a Corn Breeder and later a Research Director at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. He has been involved in developing commercial corn hybrids, is an inventor on 13 patents and has managed various research programs. David has a Ph.D. in plant breeding from Iowa State University.