Biotech companies race for drought-tolerant crops

JOHNSTON, Iowa (Reuters)- Outside the headquarters of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc, the pavement is iced over and workers arriving for the day are bundled up against the cold. 

But inside a laboratory, a warm, man-made drought is in force, curling the leaves of rows of fledgling corn plants as million-dollar machines and scientists in white coats monitor their distress.

This work is part of a global race pitting Pioneer, Monsanto Co and other biotech companies against each other in a race to develop new strains of corn and other crops that can thrive when water is in short supply.  

“Equipping plants to be able to maintain productivity in the driest years is of critical importance,” said Bill Niebur, global vice president for research and development at Pioneer, a division of DuPont. “Drought is a global problem and we recognize the threat that comes with climate change. We’ve got our top talent in our organization working on this.”

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Biotech dairy debate

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Jan 18 (Reuters) - Five years ago, Missouri dairy farmer Leroy Shatto was struggling to stay in business. Today, his herd has more than doubled amid a surge in demand for his product. The difference: a marketing campaign touting Shatto milk as free of artificial hormones.

Osborn, Missouri-based Shatto milk comes plain or flavored, but all comes from cows free of the genetically engineered hormone supplements that many conventional dairies give cows to to boost their milk production.

“That is what the consumers want now,” said Shatto, who runs a small family farm of 220 cows. “People are demanding this stuff not to be in their milk. If I had 100 more cows tomorrow, I still couldn’t keep caught up with demand.”

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Monsanto floats U.S.-only GM wheat release

Monsanto is discussing with the American wheat industry whether it should be held to its promise not to release genetically modified wheat in the United States unless it can simultaneously market it in Canada, wheat industry officials said last week. Monsanto told top officials from U.S. wheat growing and marketing organizations that it was facing stiff opposition to its GM wheat in Canada.

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