MONSANTO ADDS SUPPORT FOR eGOLDEN RICEf;
OPENS ITS RICE GENOME SEQUENCE DATA TO WORLDWIDE RESEARCH COMMUNITY
ST. LOUIS (August 4, 2000) - Monsanto announced today at an agricultural biotechnology symposium in Chennai, India, that it will provide royalty-free licenses for all of its technologies that can help further development of "golden rice" and other pro-vitamin A-enhanced rice varieties. Successful development and adoption of enhanced rice could help millions of people suffering from vitamin A deficiencies. The company also announced the recent launch of a new internet web site, www.rice-research.org, opening its rice genome sequence database to researchers around the world. These two actions are part of the company's ongoing commitment to global agricultural research and are aimed at facilitating the use of its technologies and data for the common good.
Monsantofs commitment to offer royalty-free licenses for all the companyfs technology that may be useful in the development of rice varieties with increased levels of pro-vitamin A (or beta carotene) is expected to aid researchers working in this area who wish to make use of existing proprietary technologies. gWe want to minimize the time and expenditure that might be associated with obtaining licenses needed to bring egolden ricef to farmers and the people in dire need of this vitamin in developing countries,h said Hendrik Verfaillie, Chief Executive Officer of Monsanto Company, a subsidiary of Pharmacia Corporation.
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The grain known as ggolden riceh was developed by Professor Ingo Potrykus, professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and Dr. Peter Beyer, University of Freiburg, Germany, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. In May 2000, the inventors announced a collaboration with Greenovation and Zeneca to enable delivery of this technology free-of-charge for humanitarian purposes. Zeneca pledged to provide regulatory, advisory and research expertise to assist in making ggolden riceh available in developing countries.
"I very much hope that others having intellectual property rights used in the development of egolden ricef will follow the generous example of Monsanto and also provide a royalty-free license for the humanitarian use of the technology and its transfer to developing countries," Prof. Potrykus said.
The modified rice is expected to provide nutritional benefits to those suffering from vitamin A deficiency-related diseases, including irreversible blindness in hundreds of thousands of children annually. Adequate vitamin A intake can also reduce the mortality associated with infectious diseases such as diarrhea and childhood measles by enhancing the activity of the human immune system.
In March 1999, Monsanto joined the Global Vitamin A Partnership, which includes the US Agency for International Development, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Monsanto has also developed technology to increase levels of beta carotene in oils, and is working to share it with researchers in the developing world.
The launch of the www.rice-research.org database also announced today follows on Monsantofs April 4, 2000, announcement that it had produced a draft sequence of the rice genome, the first crop genome to be described in such technical detail. In order to facilitate and encourage basic research to improve rice and other crops, the data are being made available at no charge to registered researchers through this web site.
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Monsanto has already completed the transfer of its rice genome draft sequence data and other materials to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) as the lead agency of the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP). The IRGSP is a ten-member consortium of rice genome sequencing projects around the world. According to MAFF, gthe use of this data by the international consortium will significantly accelerate decodingh of the entire rice genome.
A report issued July 2000 by the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and six other Academies of Sciences from around the world included a recommendation that urged companies to license their proprietary technologies for application in the developing world.
Ron Cantrell, Director General of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said Monsantofs action should gbe recognized as another important step in the positive involvement of the private sector in international rice research. It is essential that institutions like IRRI, and companies like Monsanto, continue to look for ways to work together to the benefit of poor rice farmers and consumers. There should be no doubt that this offer by Monsanto is an important step in this process.h
Robert T. Fraley, Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto said, gWe hope that sharing fundamental data about the rice genome and enabling the development of solutions for vitamin A deficiency will lead to a wide variety of discoveries that enhance food security and nutrition throughout the developing world.h
Monsanto Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmacia, 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
Note to editors: The complete contents of Monsantofs April 4, 2000, rice genome sharing press kit, including some photos and graphics, are available at www.monsanto.com. Also at the same WWW address is the March 16, 1999, news release gMonsanto Joins First Ladyfs Vitamin A Outreach Efforts.h