International Rice Genome Project Completed Six Years Ahead of Schedule; Monsanto's Data Helped Accelerate Research

Monsanto Congratulates International Partners for Scientific Breakthrough In


Dec 18, 2002, 00:00 ET from Monsanto Company

    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
     "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 , 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: .
               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
     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
     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 .  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
     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.
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