The answer is simple: the vast majority of the vegetable seeds that we develop and sell to farmers are not biotech/GMO.
Some might think that the $181 Million we spend annually in research and development for our vegetable seeds would no doubt go to developing GMO seeds, but actually well over 98% of that investment is focused on breeding for seeds that improve the quality and productivity of vegetables. That means great seeds for the farmers who grow great tasting, nutritious and affordable produce for you and me.
What do we do with that 2% or less that isn’t for traditional breeding? Most of it goes towards supporting our two existing biotech vegetable crops sold only in North America: squash and sweet corn.
Did you know that Monsanto didn’t develop the biotech squash that has been commercialized since 1995? Monsanto acquired the biotech, virus resistant squash technology when we purchased Seminis in 2005. Since this acquisition, Monsanto has continued breeding for new biotech squash varieties. Our virus-resistant squash varieties – which include green zucchini and yellow squash – offer resistance to specific viruses that cause distorted and discolored fruit. We also offer choices: non-biotech squash varieties are also available to our farmer customers.
In 2011, we began selling biotech sweet corn varieties to farmers in the U.S. While we continue to offer conventional sweet corn varieties, the number of farmers choosing our biotech sweet corn varieties has been growing thanks to the benefits these varieties offer to both the farmer and the people who love eating sweet corn. Biotech sweet corn helps farmers produce safe, flavorful sweet corn that is as nutritious as conventional sweet corn, while reducing the number of insecticide applications.
The truth is, biotech has opportunities in vegetables to provide better and more sustainable solutions to many of our crop challenges, as has been demonstrated in large acres crops such as corn and soybean. However, the costs and timelines for biotech approaches are challenging for the small-scale vegetable crops. So, at Monsanto we have been focusing our resources on the use of advanced breeding tools to deliver – quickly and cost-effectively – new products with conventionally-bred solutions to as many grower challenges and consumer opportunities as possible..
Keep in mind that there are some cases where a destructive virus or other pest can’t be effectively controlled through conventional breeding and is impacting a significant number of acres. These are the opportunities where biotech could be the only option.
While Monsanto is not working on extensive biotech vegetable research, the overall industry (both public and private) does have a robust pipeline of research efforts in this area. Examples include work in apples, potatoes, pineapples, citrus and much more.