ST. LOUIS, Missouri, May 11, 2004 (ENS):
Biotech giant Monsanto announced Monday that it is realigning
its research and development investments and halting
all further efforts to introduce genetically modified
Monsanto has been developing a GM strain of hard red
spring wheat called Roundup Ready. The strain has been
modified to tolerate application of a Monsanto herbicide
known as Roundup.
But the strain has drawn widespread opposition by U.S.
and Canadian farmers as well as a vocal group of public
interest groups who oppose GM crops.
Many agricultural interests are concerned that some
countries have indicated they would not allow imports
of the GM wheat and fear its introduction could cause
economic hardship for all North American wheat farmers.
Monsanto began the technical development stage of Roundup
Ready wheat in 1997.
The company said it is deferring efforts to introduce
the seed until other wheat biotechnology traits are
introduced and will discontinue breeding and field level
research of Roundup Ready wheat.
Company officials say the decision was reached after
a comprehensive review of Monsanto's research investment
portfolio and extensive consultation with customers
in the wheat industry.
"We recognize the business opportunities with
Roundup Ready spring wheat are less attractive relative
to Monsanto's other commercial priorities," said
Carl Casale, executive vice president of Monsanto.
"This decision allows us to defer commercial development
of Roundup Ready wheat, in order to align with the potential
commercialization of other biotechnology traits in wheat,
estimated to be four to eight years in the future,"
The company noted a 25 percent decline in the U.S.
and Canadian spring wheat market since 1997 as one factor
in its decision.
"This technology adds value for only a segment
of spring wheat growers, resulting in a lack of widespread
wheat industry alignment, unlike the alignment we see
in other crops where biotechnology is broadly applied,"
said Casale. "These factors underscore the difficulty
of bringing new technologies to the wheat market at
The company will be working with regulators around
the world to take appropriate next steps with regard
to regulatory submissions. Richard Caplan of the U.S.
Public Interest Research Group says the announcement
is good news, but he urged Monsanto - and U.S. regulators
- to pledge never to introduce GM wheat.
"No one wants or needs this product, and the United
States should not introduce unnecessary risk to human
health, the environment, or our export markets by accepting
its introduction," Caplan said.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights