International Rice Genome Project Completed Six Years Ahead of Schedule; Monsanto's Data Helped Accelerate Research
Monsanto Congratulates International Partners for Scientific Breakthrough In
ST. LOUIS, Dec. 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), a multi-country consortium of research institutes working to publish the complete rice genome sequence, today announced in Japan that the rice genome has been successfully decoded six years ahead of the initial target. Monsanto Company made its rice genome data available to the worldwide research community via the IRGSP more than two years ago in an effort to expand scientific knowledge and accelerate related research projects, and applauds the consortium on this breakthrough. "This project has been a leading example of international cooperation, and we congratulate the members of this project for their dedication to the goal of a complete, accurate and publicly accessible rice genome sequence," said Hendrik Verfaillie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Monsanto. "We are proud to have been able to make such a valuable contribution to that goal." "This new body of information provides countries and research institutions with the ability to accelerate development of improved types of rice, including rice with better nutritional value, greater yields, and rice that is more adaptable to seasons, climates and soils." In April 2000, Monsanto announced a major breakthrough in decoding the genetic make-up of rice, and a commitment to share the data with the IRGSP. The company completed its transfer of raw draft data and research materials from its rice genome sequencing project to the IRGSP in August 2000. According to the IRGSP, the information shared by Monsanto supports approximately 25 percent of the publicly available rice genomic sequence data. "We are extremely pleased that, in such a short period of time, our data has helped enhance and speed scientific research on rice, and we look forward to more discoveries that improve agriculture and the environment, and particularly those that enhance food security and nutritional needs throughout the developing world," said Verfaillie. In addition to sharing its data with IRGSP, Monsanto established a rice genome database at www.rice-research.org , which made the data available at no charge to publicly funded researchers. Since the database was established, nearly 800 researchers, many located in developing countries, have had access to Monsanto's rice genome sequence data. At this point, more than 90 percent of the sequences contained in the Monsanto rice genome sequence data can now also be found in the public databases of the IRGSP. The unique role the Monsanto rice genome site has played in support of public research over the last two years will no longer be needed, and the site will cease operations on December 30, 2002. Monsanto's sharing of the rice genome sequence data reflects the New Monsanto Pledge and its commitment to sharing of knowledge and technology with public institutions to advance science and understanding, improve agriculture and the environment, improve subsistence crops, and help smallholder farmers in developing countries. Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a leading provider of agricultural solutions to growers worldwide. Monsanto's employees provide top-quality, cost-effective and integrated approaches to help farmers improve their productivity and produce better quality foods. For more information on Monsanto, see: www.monsanto.com . Backgrounder - Support for Rice Genome Sequencing The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that a billion new rice consumers will be added in Asia by 2020. By that date, four billion people -- more than half the world's population -- will depend on rice. In addition to being one of the most important world food crops, rice serves as an important model plant for research, especially corn and wheat, which are closely-related to rice. For these reasons, organizations around the world -- including Monsanto -- have been engaged in efforts to decode the rice genome. The rice genome sequence is fundamental information about the make-up of rice, which will aid researchers and scientists in the development of improved types of rice. It will also expand knowledge about crop yield, disease and pest resistance, hybrid vigor, and adaptability to different environmental situations. Because rice is a model cereal for genome sequencing and basic research, the completion of its genome is a key to understanding the genomic structure and for the improvement of other grasses. Knowing the location of a gene in rice can help to find similar genes in corn and wheat. Rice has the smallest genome of the major cereals (which include corn, wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet and sorghum). The rice genome is 37 times smaller than wheat, and six times smaller than corn. In 2000, Monsanto produced a draft of a rice genome in support of its ongoing internal research programs in genomics and crop improvement. The sequence data were produced primarily in the laboratories of Dr. Leroy Hood, at the University of Washington in Seattle, under contract for Monsanto. Monsanto announced in April 2000 that the draft rice genome sequence data would be made available at no charge to the public researchers involved in the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) and to other registered public researchers. Monsanto did this to benefit the now nine-member IRGSP consortium in reaching its primary objective sooner -- the production of a complete and finished sequence of the genome of the Japanese rice variety Nipponbare. The international project was established because of the tremendous resources required to complete this task, and the understanding that it would be completed sooner if researchers from around the world collaborated on the project. Formally coming together in 1998 to complete and publish the entire genome sequence of rice, scientists from Japan, the United States, China, Korea, European Union and other members of the IRGSP agreed to use a single germplasm, to share materials and information, to immediately make public completed portions of the genome, to achieve certain accuracy standards, and to coordinate their work. In 1997, IRGSP predicted that completing the rice genome would take ten years and cost more than U.S. $200 million. By August 2001, the transfer of Monsanto's raw sequence data and research materials to the IRGSP was complete. This was accomplished through the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the lead agency in the IRGSP, which distributed the company's data to members according to their assigned chromosome. The work of the IRGSP continued, incorporating data from Monsanto's draft sequence. As each segment of the genome sequence was completed by an IRGSP member, it was placed in public databases, in accordance with existing IRGSP policy. In December 2002, the IRGSP, a consortium of public sequencing teams from around the world, are announcing that rice genome has successfully been decoded six years ahead of schedule, in part speeded by the use of Monsanto's data. Around 25 percent of the sequences deposited in public databases by the IRGSP are derived from their use of the Monsanto data. Since August 2000, more than 770 other scientists outside the IRGSP consortium have also had access to the Monsanto draft rice genome sequence data at no charge through the Internet site www.rice-research.org . At peak usage, the site had around one thousand visits per day. Monsanto encourages those who make use of its data directly to publish their results to the international research community. At this point, almost 90 percent of the sequences contained in the Monsanto rice genome sequence data can now also be found in the public databases of the IRGSP. The unique role that the Monsanto rice genome site has played in support of public research over the last two years will no longer be needed, and the site is being shut down on December 30, 2002. Monsanto has also publicly released an important category of rice genome sequence data that can be used to identify genetic traits in rice. These new data are expanding knowledge of rice genetics and accelerating breeding research in rice labs around the world. The data includes approximately 7000 segments of sequences of the draft genome known as Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs). SSRs vary in different varieties of rice, and this variability is frequently used to develop tags, called molecular markers, that are then used in mapping of genes and traits in rice. These SSRs are the parts of the genome predicted to be most immediately useful in rice breeding. Rice is an important staple crop around the world, as well as a model plant for research on other crops, so it is hoped that the expansion and availability of detailed information about the rice genome will lead to advancing global efforts to improve other major food crops, including corn (maize), wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, and others. Monsanto supports global agricultural research to improve rice and other important food crops and believes such advances are aided by broad dissemination and exchange of information. Monsanto Pledge: Sharing We will share knowledge and technology to advance science and understanding, improve agriculture and the environment, improve subsistence crops, and help smallholder farmers in developing countries. www.monsanto.com MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X43434123
SOURCE Monsanto Company
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