Feb 26 DuPont is expanding its pipeline of new
products under development to include the potential for a
biotech wheat, a company official said on Tuesday.
DuPont and its Pioneer Hi-Bred agricultural seed unit
said a hybrid wheat technology project has been added to its
roster of crop research programs that are advancing into deeper
development. DuPont currently is largely focused on genetic
improvements to corn and soybeans, as well as enhanced canola
The company is looking at using biotechnology, along with
other breeding tools, to create wheat that is more disease
resistant and also wheat that yields more and is hardy in
drought conditions, John Soper, DuPont Pioneer vice president of
crop genetics/research and development, said in an interview.
Though biotech corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops have
been in the market for years, no company has yet commercialized
a biotech wheat.
Corn remains the key crop for DuPont Pioneer, but the
company sees wheat as a good long-term bet, according to Soper.
"Corn is still our major crop, but this is one of the crops
that we think is critical to build the future pipeline for
DuPont," he said. "We have an opportunity now with the
technology... to really take wheat to a new level and it could
be an important part of our long-term future."
The wheat work is based in Pioneer's main R&D facilities in
DuPont has long offered conventional soft red winter wheat
seeds but Soper said the wheat work they are doing would be
"broadly applicable" to various classes of wheat and to many
other countries in addition to North America.
The company is still at least a decade away from a
commercialized new wheat, Soper said. Researchers have
identified the genes they want and are now starting to make
transformations and figure out which combinations work best, he
"The key thing is that we are looking for ways to grow our
business in the long term. Wheat is one of the largest crops in
the world. It's a staple food for about 35 percent of the
Soper said despite challenges to rival biotech wheat
research programs, he sees acceptance growing over time.
DuPont rival Monsanto Co. nearly brought a biotech
wheat to market but shelved the herbicide-resistant crop in 2004
amid broad opposition from buyers of U.S. wheat and from U.S.
wheat growers who feared losing sales. The company announced it
was restarting wheat research in 2009.
Researchers in Australia, Dow AgroSciences, a unit
of Dow Chemical, Syngenta, and others have said they
are also researching genetic improvements for wheat.