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Monsanto announces progress on genetically-engineered crops projects

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
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A field of soybean plants in Illinois. Herbicide-resistant soybeans are the subject of one of nine projects Monsanto discussed on a conference call with reporters today. (via Flickr/jasonippolito)

Monsanto today announced progress on nine of its research projects on genetically-engineered crops.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Monsanto's vice president of biotechnology, Steve Padgette, said several collaborations with the Germany-based BASF Plant Science will be moving forward in 2011.

One project involves genetically-modifying corn plants to make them use nitrogen more efficiently.

"That would allow the grower to use less nitrogen on the field and obtain the same yield as the grower would obtain with standard levels of nitrogen which I guess are between 155, 185, pounds of nitrogen per acre," Padgette said.

The trait could also allow farmers to get higher corn yields using a standard amount of fertilizer.

Other projects will seek to increase yields, drought tolerance, and herbicide resistance in soybeans and wheat.

Several projects are trying to address the problem of weeds that have become resistant to Monsanto's herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup.

These so-called "superweeds" can develop when too many farmers use the same herbicide year after year.

On the same conference call, Padgette said the company is now seeking regulatory approval for soybeans that can tolerate both glyphosate and another herbicide, dicamba.

"We've made the main regulatory submissions, we'll be answering questions as they may arise from different regulatory agencies," Padgette said.

Padgette also said the genetically-modified soybeans could be available to farmers in two to three years.

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