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Monsanto Company Commits $10 Million to Rice and Wheat Research Program

March 25, 2009

Monsanto Collaborates with Texas AgriLife Research and Texas A&M, Honors World’s Pre-Eminent Rice and Wheat Researchers

Global Research Program to Ignite Further Public Sector Research in Important Crops

ST. LOUIS, March 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced a $10 million grant to establish Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program, which will help identify and support young scientists interested in improving research and production in rice and wheat, two of the world’s most important staple crops, through plant breeding techniques.

Monsanto is funding the program, which will be administered by Texas AgriLife Research, an agency of the Texas A&M University System, for the next five years. The program honors the accomplishments of Dr. Henry Beachell and Dr. Norman Borlaug, who pioneered plant breeding and research in rice and wheat, respectively.

Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of global judges chaired by Program Director Dr. Ed Runge, who is also a professor and Billie B. Turner Chair in Production Agronomy (Emeritus) within the Soil and Crop Sciences Department, Texas A&M University at College Station.

“We are honored to administer this program and work with students around the world to bring new ideas and research techniques to rice and wheat breeding,” Runge said. “Research in these two staple crops has fallen behind others, and it is my hope this program will help jumpstart additional investment in two of the world’s most important grains. We encourage any eligible rice or wheat breeders around the world to apply for the award.”

Students interested in applying to the program can find more details at www.monsanto.com/mbbischolars. Applications will be accepted until May 31.

Announcement of the first year’s winners is planned to correspond with the World Food Prize held in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 15, 2009. The announcement of the grant from Monsanto today marks the celebration of Dr. Borlaug’s 95th birthday.

Plant breeding is both an art and science practiced for thousands of years in agriculture. A breeder works with a specific plant species to help encourage desired characteristics, like larger grain size, heartier stalks, or greater tolerance to environmental stress, among others, to improve the next generation of plants.

Rice and wheat are considered by many to be the most important staple crops in developing countries, providing necessary calories to feed billions of people every day. Many of the world’s poorest people rely on the two grains as a key source of food. In 2008 farmers produced nearly 440 million metric tons of rice and more than 680 million metric tons of wheat. Yet, yields of rice and wheat have grown on a compound annual growth rate of approximately 0.8 percent over the past decade while the population has grown on a compound annual growth rate of approximately 1.25 percent during the same time period. Accelerating yield growth will help to reduce hunger by helping to produce more food on the same number of acres.

“As the world celebrates the birthday of Dr. Borlaug, Monsanto is pleased to mark the accomplishments of two great men in agriculture by establishing this scholars program,” said Dr. Ted Crosbie, Vice President, Global Plant Breeding, Monsanto Company. “Drs. Beachell and Borlaug devoted their lives to ensuring farmers had access to the best rice and wheat varieties and to the advancement of science through education. This award seeks to continue their work to enable future generations of farmers to feed our growing population.”

“Young scientists who receive this scholarship will have the opportunity to come to us to further their training and work with world-renown rice experts working on projects that are making a real difference to people’s lives,” said Dr. Robert Zeigler, Director General, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). “Public sector support for graduate education in agricultural sciences in developing countries has plummeted over the last couple of decades. Support from private scholarships like this will help build the next generation of rice scientists to ensure we can solve the problems that face rice production now and in the future.”

“This is a welcome investment by the private sector, in an era of increasing food insecurity and decreasing numbers of graduate students in plant breeding,” said Dr. Thomas A. Lumpkin, director general of International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). “We hope others will follow suit with additional funding and look forward to hosting scholars funded by the program at our center.”

IRRI is the largest non-profit agricultural research agency in Asia. Its mission is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable.

CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training center with direct links to about 100 developing countries through offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America. CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program in Mexico in 1943, sponsored by the Government of Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation. The abbreviation “CIMMYT” derives from the Spanish version of the organization’s name: Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo. The organization is headquartered near Mexico City.

Fathers of the Green Revolution

Today, Dr. Borlaug remains active in the fight against world hunger. Along with his work through Texas A&M University, he chairs the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative and remains involved in the World Food Prize and Borlaug Fellows Program established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also continues to collaborate with CIMMYT and through the SG 2000 partnership of Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and the Carter Center. Currently a resident of Dallas, he is a plant pathologist and plant breeder whose efforts to develop and deliver improved wheat varieties have been credited with saving more than a billion people from starvation. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions. Borlaug was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 2006. In addition to Borlaug, only four people have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, The Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize: Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel.

Beachell was a world-renowned plant breeder whose cultivation of a new rice plant led to greatly increased yields of the crop in developing countries of Asia. While working for IRRI in the 1960s, Beachell and others crossed rice plants to produce a new variety called IR8. The resulting plant produced more heads of rice on a shorter and stronger stalk. IR8 is credited with savings millions of lives in Asia. For his work, Beachell received the World Food Prize in 1996 with Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush.

The extraordinary contributions of the two men have come to be known as the “Green Revolution.”

The establishment of Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program is part of Monsanto’s three-point commitment to help increase global food production in the face of growing demand, limited natural resources and a changing climate. The company pledged in June 2008 to work in new partnerships with other businesses, citizen groups and governments to meet the needs for increased food, fiber and energy while protecting the environment. Monsanto’s three-point commitment to growing yields sustainably includes the development of better seeds, conservation of resources and helping to improve farmers’ lives. More information on the commitment can be found at www.ProduceMoreConserveMore.com.

Additional Information

Reporters interested in obtaining photos or broadcast-standard video footage related to today’s announcement can download these files directly from The News Market at www.thenewsmarket.com/Monsanto or directly from Monsanto’s Web site at www.monsanto.com.

About Monsanto Company

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. Monsanto remains focused on enabling both small-holder and large- scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world’s natural resources such as water and energy. To learn more about our business and our commitments, please visit: http://www.monsanto.com/.


    Contact    Nick Weber (Monsanto),     314-694-4689
               Mike Jackson (Texas A&M),  972-952-9232

SOURCE Monsanto Company


Source: newswire



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