Monsanto Adds Support For Golden Rice; Opens Its 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,
http://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.
Monsanto's commitment to offer royalty-free licenses for all the company's
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. "We want to minimize the time and expenditure
that might be associated with obtaining licenses needed to bring 'golden
rice' to farmers and the people in dire need of this vitamin in developing
countries," said Hendrik Verfaillie, Chief Executive Officer of Monsanto
Company, a subsidiary of Pharmacia Corporation.
The grain known as "golden rice" 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
"golden rice" available in developing countries.
"I very much hope that others having intellectual property rights used in
the development of 'golden rice' 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.
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 Monsanto's 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.
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, "the
use of this data by the international consortium will significantly
accelerate decoding" 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 Monsanto's action should "be 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."
Robert T. Fraley, Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto said, "We 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."
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: http://www.monsanto.com
Note to editors: The complete contents of Monsanto's April 4, 2000, rice
genome sharing press kit, including some photos and graphics, are
Also at the same WWW address is the March 16, 1999, news release "Monsanto
Joins First Lady's Vitamin A Outreach Efforts."
For more information, please contact:
Gary F. Barton (314-694-7233) firstname.lastname@example.org