Monsanto new U. of Nebraska donor and research partner

LINCOLN, Nebraska, March 25, 2005, Knight-Ridder Tribune, Bill Hord via CropChoice.com: A University of Nebraska-Lincoln genetic breakthrough has, according to this story, led to a $2.5 million partnership with Monsanto Co. and to criticism from one university regent.

The story notes that UNL researchers will receive up to $2.5 million from Monsanto over the next five years to develop soybean seeds that can withstand sprayings of a weed-killer known as dicamba.

The agreement, which also calls for royalty payments to the university after the seed goes to market, stems from genetic discoveries by UNL biochemist Don Weeks and other plant scientists.

University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, a nonprofit organization that advocates for small family farms, was cited as criticizing the agreement Thursday, saying the university's research is helping Monsanto line its pockets, adding, "What we're doing is going to suck money out of rural Nebraska and put it into the corporate coffers in St. Louis. … Monsanto makes more money, and farmers make less."

Lisa Lunz, who farms with her husband, Jim, near Wakefield, and is chairwoman of the research committee of the Nebraska Soybean Association, was quoted as saying, "With the weeds getting a higher tolerance to Roundup, we will need other tools to help us control those weeds. This will be one of them. … I'm thinking this product will be good for us. Will the technology fees be good for us? No."

Hassebrook was further cited as saying the university should focus on research that helps farmers manage their crops without the need for expensive technology fees, adding, "I think we should do work that would contribute to the common good of Nebraskans without enriching Monsanto at the expense of Nebraskans."

Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research at UNL, was cited as saying the university first sought funding from commodity groups for the research, and then sought proposals from several industry corporations before selecting Monsanto, adding, "What this is about is having a collaboration with a reputable corporate partner that has expertise and resources to bring this to the marketplace in a way that will benefit farmers and the general public."