In the near future, the last of the Roundup Ready soybean patents will expire.

That expiration will be followed by the expiration of other patents on biotech crops and expiring approvals in overseas markets like the European Union and China.

Those expirations could lead to the planting of so-called “generic” versions of Roundup Ready seeds that lack approval in overseas markets, complicating the export process and potentially disrupting billions in trade. Whether the expirations will lead to lower seed prices and more choices for farmers is an open question and greater use of the historic practice of saving some seed and replanting it in the next crop season remains to be seen.

But, as patents expire and regulatory approvals for overseas markets become uncertain, a significant question exists as to whether farmers will continue to have access to these markets.

Certainly, as patents begin to expire on various biotech crops, those crops will remain for a period of time in the commercial grain supply chain. That means steps will likely be necessary to ensure the crops will still meet requirements imposed by certain buyers such as the European Union and China. Without those steps, U.S. farmers could face problems in maintaining access to those markets.