Evidence that a technology explosion is headed to the field can be found in Monsanto Company's updated pipeline. The St. Louis–based company has pushed 11 projects closer to commercialization.
Top of the list is SDA omega-3 soybeans, the first ag biotechnology product with a consumer dietary benefit.
In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration approved Monsanto's application to designate SDA omega-3 soybeans as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Vistive Gold, a trans fat-free, reduced saturated-fat soybean oil (once known as Vistive III) is also coming through the breeding process.
SmartStax, a collaboration with Dow Agro-Sciences, is being introduced in 2010 with a 5% structured refuge in the Corn Belt. In December, the two companies made regulatory submissions to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to blend the 5% refuge into the bag. The concept will likely require an EPA scientific panel, pushing estimated commercialization to 2012.
Insect-protected RR2Y soybeans will one day head south to Brazil. The same Bt gene used in Bollgard cotton will control lepidopteran pests.
Roundup Hybridization System (RHS) for corn will offer an alternative for detasselling in hybrid seed corn. It uses a transgenic trait that exhibits high tolerance to glyphosate in all tissues except the male plant reproductive tissues.
YieldGard Rootworm III and YieldGard Corn Borer III will use two modes of action for increased control against their target pests.
Dicamba and glufosinate-tolerant corn will build on the Roundup Ready platform to provide multiple herbicide tolerances with different modes of action to offer growers more flexibility.
FOPS Tolerance builds on the Roundup platform to provide more in-crop control options.
The pipeline announcements confirm that Monsanto is betting its future on developing new patented crops. The seed maker posted first-quarter losses of $19 million as global sales of Roundup herbicide sank in the face of generic competition. However, Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley says the company's research progress is unprecedented.
Monsanto's technology development process includes discovery and four phases. The company says it spends $2.6 million per day on research and development and it takes an average of 10 years and $100 million for a biotechnology product to make it to market.
- Mid-February 2010