June 23, 2009 / 12:29 PM / in 9 years

Monsanto, Dole to try to build better veggies

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Monsanto Co and Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc are formalizing a partnership to breed broccoli, spinach and other vegetables that would be more attractive to consumers.

The five-year collaboration, announced on Tuesday, will focus on creating variations of broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach, the companies said in a statement.

The focus of their efforts is to breed more colorful, tastier vegetables that are less susceptible to bruising and have a longer shelf-life.

“If I buy broccoli on Saturday or Sunday and try to cook it on Wednesday, it’ll get wilty,” Monsanto spokeswoman Riddhi Trivedi-St. Clair said of one of reasons for the program.

She also stressed that these new variants will not be genetically modified like the company’s corn seed and soybean products, a much larger operation for Monsanto.

Also known for its herbicide business, Monsanto has been aggressively growing its vegetable business with recent moves such as the 2005 acquisition of Seminis, which gave Monsanto control over more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market. In 2008, Monsanto acquired Netherlands-based De Ruiter Seeds, whose focus is in greenhouse vegetable growth as opposed to the open-field expertise of Seminis.

Dole and Monsanto had previously been working together on fresh vegetables, though the agreement announced on Tuesday formalized the venture, said Dole spokesman Marty Ordman.

Last year, Monsanto also entered into an agreement with packaged food maker Apio to develop broccoli and cauliflower products.

Should new products be created under the collaboration, they could be sold by Dole in North America.

Monsanto shares were up 1.1 percent at $78.95 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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