| June 4
June 4 While regulators probe the discovery of
an experimental genetically modified wheat long thought
abandoned by biotech seed developer Monsanto Co, the
company has a new line of field experiments on biotech wheat
The company is no longer pursuing the same "Roundup Ready"
spring wheat it designed more than a decade ago to tolerate
dousings of its Roundup weedkiller, which is the strain found in
a wheat field in Oregon in April. But it is developing similar
strains that are genetically altered for herbicide tolerance as
well as other traits, according to the company and regulatory
"Our work in wheat is focused on helping improve wheat
productivity, including breeding, biotechnology and improved
agronomic practices," said Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles in a
The company's near-term focus is on breeding better
varieties, which in the long term could serve as the foundation
for new biotechnology traits, he said.
New biotech wheat from Monsanto is at least a decade away
from commercial approval, he said. But the company has conducted
small-scale, entry level field trials in North Dakota testing
some biotechnology pipeline projects.
This year, Monsanto is pursuing both a new
glyphosate-tolerant project - glyphosate is the main ingredient
in Roundup herbicide - and a separate herbicide-tolerant project
that is designed to make wheat tolerant of multiple herbicides,
Monsanto's biotech wheat work was thrown into the spotlight
last week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed the
discovery of Monsanto's experimental, unapproved Roundup Ready
wheat in a farm field in Oregon. Since then,
Asian buyers have backed away from U.S. purchases and the U.S.
wheat industry is worried that if any of the biotech wheat is
discovered in export shipments, billions of dollars of exports
could be rejected.
Monsanto said it last field tested the Roundup Ready wheat
in 2005 and that it does not know why it would be growing this
Quarles would not say if the company was changing its field
testing protocols in light of the issues with the wheat found in
Oregon, but said that its biotech field testing is done under
"strict regulatory oversight and under confined and