Monsanto launching its first biotech sweet corn

ST. LOUIS, Missouri Thu Aug 4, 2011 2:01pm EDT

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (Reuters) - Monsanto Co. is preparing to launch a genetically altered sweet corn, marking the global seed company's first commercial combination of its biotechnology with a consumer-oriented vegetable product.

The sweet corn seed, which will be available to farmers this fall, has been genetically altered to tolerate treatment of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and to fight off insects that might attack the plants, said Consuelo Madere, Monsanto vice president of the company's global vegetable business.

The "triple-stack" sweet corn is aimed at the fresh market, a relatively small market sector with total U.S. plantings of about 250,000 acres, said Madere. She declined to say how large of a launch the company was making, only to say it would be "very, very small."

Though this is Monsanto's first biotech vegetable launch, Madere said other companies have already brought genetically altered vegetables to market and she did not anticipate significant consumer backlash.

"This is our first launch. We think it is a good product and we'll work to make sure we educate folks to the benefits," she said.

Monsanto's vegetable unit is anchored by Seminis, which it acquired in 2005, and is distinct from Monsanto's mammoth seed business for field crops like corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. For the most recent quarter, vegetable seed sales totaled $216 million out of more than $2.6 billion in total seed and genomic sales.

Since buying Seminis, Monsanto has been expanding its holdings in the vegetable seed arena. Still, while Monsanto is known for its expertise in plant biotechnology, the vegetable unit has only a few genetically altered products in its pipeline because non-biotech breeding techniques are more cost-effective than biotech for vegetable seeds, said Madere.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Alden Bentley)

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Comments (1)
catdaddio42 wrote:
The use of sweet corn that can fend off insects without being sprayed with pesticides 20 times each growing season sounds like a sane policy to me. Keeps the toxins out of the water and relieves the farm workers and their families from being exposed to some real nasty chemicals. Even the organic folks need to use chemicals because the bugs love sweet corn as much as we do, although most of the time they just cut off the damaged portions so that we never see the worms. I was happy to learn that Syngenta has made such seeds available for 10 years. The news that they have a competitor like Seminis is even better – more choices for farmers and better corn.

Aug 07, 2011 2:33am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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