Monsanto’s Next Moves as GMO Patents Expire: #BigData and #RNAi
As the first-generation Roundup Ready #soybean trait, the world’s most widely adopted #biotech trait, comes off patent this year (2015), people are asking, “What is #Monsanto up to next?”
Two years ago Monsanto purchased The Climate Corporation, hoping to marry #bigdata and big agriculture to benefit farmers. The idea is that farmers will use real time, highly detailed field maps to maximize the return on every square foot of their fields. Farmers can see water, fertilizer and weed control data, comparing crop yields and “making every seed count.” The Climate Corporation has announced that farmers have mapped more than 75 million row crop acres in their digital agriculture platform. This significant (!) acre adoption represents nearly 45 percent of all corn and soybean acres planted in the U.S. Most importantly perhaps, 30 years of weather data are aggregated and accessed, so that weather data can support farming decisions, with 50 BILLION data points.
It has often been said of Big Data that it is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it. But, in my opinion, this is doing it RIGHT. Tellingly, The Climate Corporation also offers insurance products for farmers!!
Recently, Monsanto and other seed companies have started employing the extraordinary power of RNA interference (#RNAi) in spray form, to knockdown a destructively feeding insect’s genes, effectively killing them by shutting off genes that they need to survive. The RNAi spray, called BioDirect, can also directly genetically modifying plants, by entering into the plant’s cells through the leaves.
After Monsanto discovered ( in 2010) that RNA could directly modify the expression of plant genes, they took over a company called Beeologics, which had found a way to introduce RNA into sugar water that bees feed on in order to kill a parasitic mite that infests hives. That company also came up with a much cheaper way to make RNA, which has traditionally been very expensive to produce.
Monsanto then paid $30 million for access to the RNA interference know-how (and patents) held by the biotech companies Alnylam, and Tekmira. Additionally, they are the financial backer of a 15-person company called Preceres, where robotic mixers stir RNA together with coatings of specialized nanoparticles to deliver this seemingly miraculous technology.
All in all, both of these technologies are great news for Monsanto’s biggest headaches and heartaches; 1) GMO patents expiring, 2) Opposition to GMOs, 3) Bt resistant insects, and 4) RoundUp resistant weeds.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings! Monsanto- Do you need a lobbyist!?