Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest vegetable seed maker, said it will begin selling genetically modified sweet corn in the U.S. this year, the first product it has developed for the consumer market.
The sweet corn seeds are engineered to kill insects living above and below ground and to tolerate applications of the company’s Roundup herbicide, Consuelo Madere, Monsanto vice president for vegetables, told reporters at company headquarters in St. Louis today. They will be introduced to growers serving the U.S. fresh corn market starting in the autumn, she said.
Monsanto previously sold only engineered crops that are processed into sugars and oils, used as animal feed or made into fibers. The new seeds will initially target the 250,000-acre market for fresh corn in the eastern U.S., Madere said. Monsanto is in discussions with companies that would can or freeze the corn, she said.
Monsanto will compete with pest-killing sweet corn seeds that Syngenta AG of Switzerland has sold for more than a decade, she said.
Sweet corn is a much smaller market than the market for grain corn, which is forecast to be planted on 90.7 million acres this year, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.
Monsanto currently sells squash that has been engineered to resist viruses, a product that came with its 2005 acquisition of Seminis.
Developing biotech vegetables costs about $100 million and requires a decade to reach the market, Madere said. Monsanto spends more than 95 percent of its vegetable research on conventional breeding in 23 crops, she said. Conventional-breeding projects include tomatoes that taste better and resist viruses, sweeter melons, crisper romaine lettuce and blight-resistant peppers, she said.