In a move aimed at helping repair the damage caused by its earlier support of the terminator gene, Monsanto is releasing biotech research work dealing with the genetic structure of rice to the academic community.
Work on the terminator gene, designed to make the seed of genetically modified plants sterile, upset people in developing countries where seed is saved for planting the following year. The controversy led Monsanto to agree not to commercialize the terminator gene.
Aimed at overcoming the reaction of farm activists in developing countries, release of this rice genetic data represents the first time any crop biotechnology company has agreed to disclose to the academic community this much genetic information about any major crop. This announcement does not include the release of Monsanto biotech data on corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops. That data is not expected to be released.
The availability of this research data through a Japanese facility will primarily benefit the nonprofit group of 10 nations that’s decoding the genetic makeup of rice. The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project is attempting to map and manipulate rice genes to create hardier and more nutritious varieties. The only condition Monsanto placed on release of its biotech rice gene data is that any researcher who tries to develop a trait for profit must first offer a non-exclusive license to the company.