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 (GM)
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
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
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
"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," Casale said.
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 this time."
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
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights Reserved.