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 mustard. 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 (ABSP): http://www.iia.msu.edu/absp US Agency for International Development (USAID): http://www.usaid.gov World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/nut/ UNICEF: http://www.unicef.org/vitamina 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. 20(4), 401-412.
SOURCE Monsanto Company