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Monsanto announces third public release of soybean genetic material

(May 14, 2002 CropChoice news) The following comes from a Monsanto press release.

ST. LOUIS -- As part of its pledge to share technology, Monsanto announced its intent to release approximately two hundred Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) genetic markers to accelerate the development of a soybean with improved oils, better yields and more protein.

Monsanto and United States Department of Agriculture cooperated in the development this technology. Dr. Perry Cregan, a researcher with the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA developed the markers at the Soybean Genomic and Improvement Laboratory of the Plant Sciences Institute at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland. Monsanto will release these genetic markers to the United Soybean Board's checkoff funded Better Bean Initiative. They will be made available to the public sector via the USB's Technology Utilization Center during May 2002.

"Monsanto shares the USB's goal of developing enhanced soybeans which can ultimately create value for U.S. soy producers and provide an even healthier soybean for consumers," said Carl Casale, vice president and general manager for Monsanto's North American agriculture business. "In line with the Monsanto Pledge and our tenet of sharing knowledge and technology to improve the agriculture industry, Monsanto is pleased to share this technology with the U.S. soybean industry."

Scientists often use genetic markers as a flag to identify the specific location of a genetic trait of interest on a chromosome. By flagging the desired trait, plant breeders can breed plants more efficiently. These markers enable researchers to rapidly analyze soybean plants and identify individuals that have the best expression of a desired trait e.g. yield or oil content. This means that U.S. growers get access to better soybean varieties faster.

"Monsanto has been a valuable partner with the soybean checkoff through their contributions in support of the Better Bean Initiative," said USB Vice Chairman David Durham, a soybean farmer from Hardin, MO and Chairman of USB's BBI Advisory Panel. "The SSR markers are important tools for plant breeders and can accelerate the development of soybean varieties with improved protein and oil qualities that customers of the U.S. soybeans demand."

Today's announcement is the latest action by the company to implement the Monsanto Pledge. The Monsanto Pledge is a series of commitments that describe the company's policies for the products developed through biotechnology.

This is the third commitment of genetic material that Monsanto has made to the checkoff funded Better Bean Initiative in the past two years. In May 2001, the company donated a Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) genetic marker to the Better Bean Initiative. This genetic marker identifies the low palmitic fatty acid trait within the soybean genome and is expected to quickly accelerate the Better Bean Initiative's goal of developing a low saturate soybean. In June of 2001, Monsanto announced that it would share a series of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-end sequences with USB. Scientists will use BAC-end sequences to better understand the soybean genome by identifying the location of specific genetic markers on chromosomes within a genome.

The mission of the checkoff-funded Better Bean Initiative is to step up the development and availability of U.S. soybean seed with enhanced composition traits. The USB has been working with public and private sector industry partners from the food, feed and seed industries to leverage resources and determine the most efficient way to bring these new soybean products to market. The development of soybean seed with enhanced traits will better position U.S. soybeans to meet the needs of oil and protein end-users and improve the economic value for U.S. soybean farmers. The Better Bean Initiative (BBI) also helps U.S. soybean farmers match and outpace increased competition from other soybean-producing countries, as well as other protein and vegetable oil sources. Monsanto Company has been a cooperator in the Better Bean Initiative since January 2000.

The Technology Utilization Center is a virtual center, created as a tool of the Better Bean Initiative, to access, combine and provide new traits for commodity soybeans. It provides a way to bring together the public and private sectors to help achieve the overall BBI goals.