Monsanto’s Biotech Traits Get Nod for Increased Acreage

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Feb 13, 2002
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Regulatory approvals, renewals, and increased acreage of Monsanto Company’s
agricultural biotechnology traits in 2001 signal a growing acceptance of the
technology and a broader recognition of its benefits, says Monsanto’s Chief
Technology Officer, Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D. The number of acres planted with
biotechnology traits developed by Monsanto globally increased approximately
14 percent to 118 million acres (48 million hectares) in 2001. In the U.S.,
where the benefits of this technology are typically first introduced, acreage
for Monsanto’s biotechnology-enhanced traits rose by 17 percent in 2001 to more
than 84 million acres (34 million hectares). According to Clive James, chairman
of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA),
the number of farmers planting biotech crops will continue to grow in 2002,
particularly in developing countries.

Moderator Comment: Is there a growing acceptance of
biotechnology-enhanced foods by consumers?

Mr. Fraley may very well be correct that there is an
increased acceptance of biotechnology enhancement by farmers and regulators.
We do not have quantitative data to disprove this opinion. How well these groups
accept the technology probably is not really the point anyway.

We can not help thinking back, however, to when Monsanto
was looking to promote bovine Somatotropin bST otherwise know as bGH. Monsanto’s
position (and most of the scientific community) was that the milk from cows
given bST was exactly the same as those not given the hormone.

Various groups jumped up and protested. Soon chains were
posting signs that they were not accepting milk from dairies that got milk from
cows given bST. It also did not help that there was no shortage of milk and
the need for an increased supply was not evident to many.

Some small farmer groups argued against the use of bST.
They feared being put at a competitive disadvantage with larger farms. There
were also concerns that increases in supply would drive the price of milk down
to the point where it would no longer be profitable to produce.

Ultimately, it appears as though consumer sentiment prevailed
over science. Are the biotechnology companies going down the same road with
bioengineered foods? [George
Anderson – Moderator
]

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