ST. LOUIS, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A leading Indian research institute in
New Delhi, India, today launched a multi-year project to develop a "golden
mustard" that will yield cooking oil high in beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A).
Working in partnership with Michigan State University (MSU) and Monsanto
Company (NYSE: MON), the not-for-profit Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI)
said successful development and adoption of the enhanced oil from "golden
mustard" has the potential of helping hundreds of thousands of children
suffering from vitamin A deficiencies, particularly in northern and eastern
India, where mustard oil is commonly used for food preparation and cooking.
"We have pledged to share our knowledge about agriculture to help improve
food security and nutrition in the developing world, and are pleased to join
in partnership with TERI and Michigan State on this new initiative," Monsanto
President and Chief Executive Officer Hendrik Verfaillie said.
Verfaillie announced on November 27, the New Monsanto Pledge which
included a commitment to bring the knowledge and advantages of all forms of
agriculture to farmers in the developing world to help improve food security
and protect the environment. The company has created a dedicated team to
facilitate technology sharing and agricultural collaborations with public
institutions, non-profit groups and local industry around the world.
Recent estimates reveal that more than 18 percent of the children in India
suffer some level of vitamin A deficiency. The World Health Organization
estimates approximately 250 million people suffer significant illnesses,
including vision impairment, inability to absorb proteins and nutrients, and
reduced immune function because of vitamin A deficiency.
"Biotechnology offers tremendous potential to address several of the
health and nutritional problems that India faces today. I welcome this
partnership that will contribute toward alleviating the deep-seated problem of
vitamin A deficiency, especially among women and children. We recognize that
multi-party partnership is necessary to take this technology further," Dr. R.
K. Pachauri, Director TERI said.
In addition to technical and financial support from Monsanto, the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID) will also fund the effort through
a grant to MSU's Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project. MSU will
collaborate with TERI and Monsanto in the adoption and transfer of technology
to produce the beta-carotene enhanced oilseed mustard plants.
"We are very pleased to be working with TERI, USAID and Monsanto to
develop 'golden mustard,' and look forward to collaborating with Indian
scientists, regulators, and health and consumer groups to disseminate the
technology in a responsible manner," Catherine Ives, Director, Agricultural
Biotechnology Support Project, MSU.
Monsanto has been working since the mid-1990s to enhance the carotenoid
levels of oilseed crops with a focus on the accumulation of beta carotene in
the seed of canola (also known as oilseed rape). As a result, researchers
have been able to achieve concentrations of beta carotene in oil from crushed
canola seed greater than currently available in any other oil or vegetable.
In March 1999, Monsanto announced it would share at no cost this gene
transfer technology, and simultaneously joined into a public and private
sector partnership with USAID and the Global Vitamin A Alliance. This current
mustard project is part of fulfilling the earlier commitment.
TERI's scientists, led by Senior Fellow and Dean of Bioresources and
Biotechnology Dr. Vibha Dawan, have extensive experience in breeding improved
varieties of mustard commonly cultivated in India. The Institute's researchers
will work directly with Monsanto scientists to develop high beta-carotene
In April 2000, Monsanto also produced a draft sequence of the rice genome,
the first crop genome to be described in significant technical detail. In
order to facilitate and encourage basic research to improve rice and other
crops, the data is available at no charge to the International Rice Genome
Sequencing Project (IRGSP), a ten-member consortium of rice genome sequencing
projects around the world, and is currently accessible to registered
researchers through the www.rice-research.org web site.
"These actions are all part of Monsanto's pledge to share the company's
knowledge in global agricultural research and to facilitate the use of its
technologies for the common good. We hope that these collaborations will
ultimately help improve food security and protect the environment around the
world," Verfaillie said.
Monsanto Company, an 85 percent owned subsidiary of Pharmacia Corporation,
(NYSE: PHA) is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and
agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For
more information on Monsanto, see: www.monsanto.com .
Certain statements contained in this release, such as statements
concerning the development of new seed and food products, are "forward-looking
statements." These statements are based on factors that involve risks and
uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed
or implied. Factors that may cause actual results to differ include, among
others: the success of product development activities and the speed with which
regulatory approvals and product roll-outs may be achieved; domestic and
foreign social, legal and political developments, especially those relating to
agricultural products developed through biotechnology; the success of research
efforts; the ability to produce new products in adequate amounts; and other
risks and factors detailed in Monsanto's Registration Statement on Form S-1,
as amended, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q and other filings with the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission. Monsanto disclaims any intention or
obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements, whether as a
result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI) home page: http://www.teriin.org
Michigan State University Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project
US Agency for International Development (USAID): http://www.usaid.gov
World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/nut/
Monsanto India: http://www.monsantoindia.com
Technical Reference: Shewmaker, C., Sheehy, J., Daley, M., Colburn, S.,
and Ke, D.Y. (1999) Seed-specific overexpression of phytoene synthase:
increase in carotenoids and other metabolic effects. The Plant Journal.
SOURCE Monsanto Company