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Crop Biotech Update

Roadblocks to Market Entry of Biotech Crops

December 4, 2009

After more than two decades of research, the market for genetically modified plants is dominated by "by applications of just a handful of methods and genes." This is despite the billions of dollars spent every year in GM plant research and the resulting surge in publications and patents. Caius M. Rommens, in a paper published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal, identified the roadblocks to market for transgenic crops and discussed the methods and approaches on how to overcome these, particularly in the United States. These barriers, Rommens wrote, include: trait efficacy in the field, critical product concepts, freedom-to-operate (FTO), industry support, identity preservation and stewardship, regulatory approval and retail and consumer acceptance.

Rommens recommended several guidelines that may help overcome barriers to market biotech crops. These include:

  • carefully assessing the efficacy of genes in the field by employing the full toolbox for agronomy,
  • focusing on product concepts that address critical issues and/or needs,
  • ensuring FTO by licensing all applicable methods and genetic elements,
  • implementing robust IP systems that comply with governmental guidelines,
  • obtaining early buy-in from growers, processors, and retailers,
  • ensuring that the gene-of-interest does not code for proteins which raise concerns with regard to potential toxicity and allergenicity, and maintaining frequent and forthright communication with the regulatory agencies involved,
  • and obtaining end-user support by addressing perception issues and providing clear consumer benefits.
The original paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2009.00464.x.