Are patents an indicator of quality in ag-biologicals?

Lab, bottles microacope gloved hand. Scientist doing research towards a patent in ag-biologicals

In 2023 XiteBio unveiled our XiteBio® Yield+ line of products based on our patented Bacillus firmus bacteria. In today’s edition of Growing Possibilities, we look at the history of patenting microorganisms and ask: Are patents an indicator of quality in ag-biologicals?

While patenting is not the only way to develop a trusted ag-biological product is one indicator of the amount of research and development that went into a product. A microorganism that is discovered in its natural form cannot be patented (1). However today certain types of microorganisms can be patented. The first patent in the field of microbiology was granted to Louis Pasteur in 1873 for a process of fermenting beer with the help of yeast (1). However, it was not until over a century later in 1980 that the US Supreme Court in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty granted a patent to a genetically modified microorganism (2). This was upheld in 1994 by the TRIPS agreement (laid out by the WTO) which obliged member states to grant patents to microorganisms (2). TRIPS did not define the criteria for which microorganisms can be patented. But today it is widely recognized that to be patented a microorganism must meet at least 3 criteria: Novelty, Inventive step, and Industrial Application (3).

All of this paved the way for XiteBio Technologies Inc. to obtain a worldwide patent on Bacillus firmus as a P-solubilizing plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) in 2018 (3). Since then, we have seen the ag-biologicals industry explode with product offerings and have been on a mission to promote proven science-based solutions to growers and retailers. For a microorganism to be patented several steps must be taken to satisfy the patent office that this is indeed a novel invention and not simply the discovery of a natural substance (1). The patent process is one litmus test (but not the only one) that allows farmers and retailers to separate companies that have put time and money into innovation, research and development (IRD) vs. those who are selling snake oil.

The XiteBio® Yield+ line of products puts trust and reliability at the forefront of the development of new ag-biologicals products. We have taken our proven and patented P-solubilizing PGPR technology and used it to create a family of products. XiteBio® Yield+ for Oilseeds, Cereals, and Legumes has already proven itself to produce ROI for growers in crops like, canola, corn, and soybeans, since 2016. It is now joined by XiteBio® Tuber+ for tuber crops and XiteBio® Vegi+ for vegetable crops both of which received CFIA registration over the past 12 months. We have taken an existing and proven technology and expanded its use through field testing and applied research in our IRD Centre. Our new product offerings allow growers in the potato, sugar beet and horticultural markets to benefit from the yield boosting, plant growth promoting effects of a revolutionary ag-biological, while at the same time having the peace of mind that the underlying patented technology has been proven to boost both ROI and sustainability for farmers across Canada and the USA.

Using patented microbial technology, the XiteBio® Yield+ line of products increases ROI for the grower while maximizing P uptake efficiency. The XiteBio® Yield+ line of products allows growers to meet P reduction targets and avoid P runoff while maximizing yields. This means that farmers do not have to choose between sustainability and profitability they can have both. So are patents an indicator of quality in ag-biologicals? They can be but they are not the only one. Remember to ask multiple questions when purchasing an ag-biological, how was it developed, who developed it and how was it tested? Until next time we wish you healthier plants and better yields.

1. https://www.globalpatentfiling.com/blog/analyzing-laws-patentability-microorganisms
2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/jcb.2010.20
3. https://suranaandsurana.com/2023/02/20/patenting-of-microorganisms-genes/
4. https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2925855A1/en

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