Monsanto enters forestry biotech joint venture

Biotech giant Monsanto is to form a forestry biotech joint venture with three leading paper companies in an effort to boost the productivity of the world's forests.

As international demand for wood fibre increases, the joint venture, made up of Fletcher Challenge Forests, International Paper, Westvaco and Monsanto, will focus on the main tree species now planted by the forest industry around the world.

The joint venture will initially direct its efforts toward various eucalyptus and poplar species, Radiata pine, loblolly pine and sweetgum. Targeted genetic “improvements” include:

  herbicide tolerant planting stock to enable more cost effective, as-needed control of competing vegetation;

  higher growth rates to allow more wood to be grown on less land at lower cost;

  improved fibre quality and uniformity to increase efficiency in paper and wood products manufacturing processes.

The joint venture says these measures are expected to enable forest landowners to meet the growing demand for paper and wood products “while strengthening their ability to manage forestlands in a sustainable and eco-efficient manner…and without increasing pressure on native forests.”

Each company possesses biotech capabilities and has said it will share its individual strengths as an equal partner in the joint venture. The joint venture plans to seek technological innovations from independent laboratories, universities and other companies in order to market advances in forestry biotech to tree growers.

The group has announced its intention to provide genomics research in collaboration with Genesis Research and Development, a New Zealand biotechnology research company. The joint venture also will acquire forestry intellectual property from Genesis.

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