Monsanto to start selling genetically modified sweet corn in the U.S. in 2011, company says

LOS ANGELES , August 5, 2011 () – Monsanto Co. will start selling its genetically modified sweet corn in the U.S. in 2011, marking the first consumer market product it has developed, the company said, according to reports by Bloomberg and Reuters on Aug. 4.

The sweet corn seeds, which will be introduced to farmers in the fall, have been engineered to fight off insects dwelling above and below the ground and to withstand applications of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, the company’s VP for vegetables Consuelo Madere said, Bloomberg reported.

While this is Monsanto’s first biotech vegetable venture, Madere doesn’t expect a backlash from consumers as other companies have already introduced genetically altered vegetables into the market, Reuters reported.

Monsanto’s seeds will compete with Switzerland-based Syngenta AG’s pest-killing sweet corn, which has been on the market for more than a decade, Madere said.

Previously, Monsanto only sold engineered crops that are processed into sugars and oils, used as animal feed, or made into fibers, but the new seeds will target the 250,000-acre fresh corn market in the eastern U.S., Madere said, Bloomberg reported.

Monsanto is currently holding discussions with companies that could can or freeze the corn, Madere added.

With its acquisition in 2005, Seminis Inc. anchors Monsanto’s vegetable unit, but is distinct from Monsanto’s seed business for field crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. In the most recent quarter, sales of vegetable seeds totaled US$216 million, just a part of the $2.6 billion in total seed and genomic sales.

Monsanto has expanded its vegetable seed holdings since purchasing Seminis, but the company has few genetically altered products on the horizon as non-biotech breeding techniques are cheaper than biotech techniques for vegetable seeds, Madere said, Reuters reported.

As biotech vegetable development costs around $100 million and takes a decade to reach the market, the company spends over 95% of its vegetable research on conventional breeding in 23 crops, Madere said.

The primary sources of this article are Bloomberg, New York, New York, and Reuters, London, England, on August 4, 2011.

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