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Monsanto shelves transgenic potatoes

(March 22, 2001 --Cropchoice news) -- Given sagging demand, Monsanto will stop selling its NewLeaf transgenic potato seed to U.S. and Canadian farmers after this spring.

Monsanto, the only U.S. company to launch a transgenic potato, engineered a Bt gene into its NewLeaf variety to repel the Colorado potato beetle. Although marketed as a way for farmers to reduce their pesticide use, the product never captured more than 5 percent of the potato seed market.

In the face of low potato prices, farmers reportedly have been unwilling to pay the technology fees that Monsanto charges to plant the NewLeaf.

Add to that the fact that food companies have backed away from transgenic foods. For example, McDonald's last year instructed its french-fry suppliers to stop using the NewLeaf. They then passed on the word to farmers.

Demand for the potatoes peaked in 1995, when growers planted them on 55,000 acres in North America. By last year, that acreage had shrunk by half.

Monsanto plans to focus its efforts on transgenic corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat.