Monsanto-Dow Strike Seed Deal to Thwart Rising Resistance

Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co. agreed to cross-license seed technologies to produce new versions of genetically modified corn as crop-killing weeds and bugs show increasing resistance to older technologies.

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, becomes the first to license Dow’s Enlist trait, which creates crops that can tolerate 2,4-D herbicide, the companies said today in a joint statement. Dow, the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, is licensing Monsanto’s Corn Rootworm III, which controls root-eating bugs.

The agreement allows new traits to be added by the end of the decade to the companies’ co-developed SmartStax corn, which already has eight technologies to control bugs and tolerate weedkillers. Adding overlapping technologies will make SmartStax more durable in the face of emerging resistance, said Garry Hamlin, a Dow spokesman.

“SmartStax is ahead of the curve in controlling weed and insect resistance, and we plan to keep it that way,” Hamlin said by telephone today.

About 65 million acres of U.S. cropland harbored weeds last year that aren’t killed by glyphosate, the world’s best-selling herbicide, a 51 percent increase from 2011, Dow said in February.

“We continue to look for additional modes of action that offer benefit to our farmer customers and complement our existing offerings,” Monsanto President Brett Begemann said in the statement.

Growing Resistance

Monsanto is most interested in Dow’s Enlist weed-control technology because it allows crops to tolerate so-called FOPs herbicides used to kill grasses, as well as 2,4-D, Kelli Powers, a Monsanto spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January said new testing methods found rootworms in Illinois and Iowa have become resistant to Monsanto’s Yieldgard corn, which is engineered to produce a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide. Monsanto’s Corn Rootworm III trait uses RNA interference, which alters the production of cell proteins, to kill insects. The technology, which is still in development, is the first alternative to Bt-based traits.

The licensing agreements announced today are non-exclusive, the companies said. Monsanto will represent both companies in licensing the next generation of SmartStax corn to other seed producers.

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