ALLEMAN, Iowa – Monsanto announced it has developed new, low-linolenic soybeans produced through conventional breeding that will reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids in processed soybean oil.

Speaking at a press conference in Alleman, Kerry Preete, vice president of U.S. Crop Production, said Monsanto will offer the opportunity to hundreds of Iowa growers to plant these soybeans for the 2005 crop season. The soybeans will be the first to carry the Vistive brand, Monsanto’s new line of products offering enhanced food-grade oils.

Producers will grow the soybeans under contract with participating soybean processors, which will crush the grain, refine the oil and market that oil to food companies. Participating processors will offer growers a premium for the Vistive soybeans. Ag Processing Inc. will be a participating soybean processor for 2005. Monsanto is finalizing programs with additional participating processors and anticipates announcing details in the next few weeks.

Monsanto’s leading soybean breeders and research scientists have worked for more than a decade to develop Vistive soybeans, which Preete said not only provide yield parity with leading soybean varieties, but also maintain outstanding agronomic benefits.

“We are very excited to give growers the opportunity to earn a premium on Vistive soybeans without sacrificing performance,” said Preete. “Growers don’t have to trade off yield and agronomics for this premium opportunity.” For 2005, Vistive soybeans will be available in Monsanto’s Asgrow brand.

Vistive soybeans, which will have the Roundup Ready® trait, contain less than 3% linolenic acid, compared to 8% for traditional soybeans, resulting in a more stable soybean oil, with a better flavor profile, and less need for hydrogenation. Because soybeans with less linolenic acid reduce or eliminate the need for partial hydrogenation, trans fats in processed soybean oil can be reduced or eliminated.

Trans fats are created in the partial hydrogenation process, which is used to increase shelf life and flavor stability in fried foods, baked goods, snack products and other processed foods. Trans fats are linked to heart disease, because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol while raising LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Preete said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s mandate to include trans fat labeling on food products beginning January 1, 2006, is a major factor driving the demand for low-linolenic soybean oil. VISTIVE could establish a new standard for the performance of food-grade oils, as the U.S. consumes more than 18 billion pounds of soybean oil annually, he said.

Monsanto, he said, is continuing to invest revenue in soybean research and development, moving from agronomic traits to the next wave of quality and compositional enhancements that will benefit growers and consumers. “Monsanto has been a leader in developing technology to make U.S. soybean growers more competitive,” said Preete.

“Roundup Ready Soybeans ushered in a new era of agronomic benefits for farmers. Our current research is focused on oils with consumer benefits that will allow growers to earn a premium. VISTIVE soybeans with low levels of linolenic acid, the first product in this effort, represent a payoff from our investment in technology.”

Preete said Monsanto has met with leading food companies and is well aware of their interest in reducing trans fats. “We’re working closely with these manufacturers to understand their oil and protein needs, and we’re confident that our robust product pipeline will be able to meet their objectives and provide consumers with improved choices,” he said.

Preete noted that Vistive soybeans support the strategic direction of Qualisoy, an industry coalition devoted to developing and commercializing enhanced compositional traits that add value to U.S. soybeans. Monsanto announced earlier this year that it is supporting the Qualisoy program with important gene sequence data and an $8.4 million grant earmarked for ongoing research and communication.

“The development of Vistive soybeans not only improves the competitiveness of growers, it also meets the needs of the food industry,” said John Becherer, Chief Executive Officer of Qualisoy. “We appreciate Monsanto’s investment in the future of the U.S. soybean industry, as low-linolenic acid and other compositional traits will benefit the industry for the long term.”

Monsanto’s announcement drew praise from the American Soybean Association. “We are very pleased by the introduction of Vistive soybeans, and the opportunity for our growers to participate in its success,” said Ron Heck, ASA Chairman. “This is exactly the kind of quality improvement needed to ensure the future competitiveness of U.S. soybeans and soybean oil in the global market. Raising soybeans with improved compositional traits such as low linolenic acid represents the future for our growers.”

Preete said Monsanto is committed to working with the soybean industry to continue strengthening that competitive position. “The industry understands that we need to shift to a quality platform to be competitive in the future,” he said.

Monsanto and participating soybean processors, in cooperation with ASA and the Iowa Soybean Association, will work together to pursue grower contracts from now through the end of the seed sales season. Participants in the 2005 planting program will have preferred status when the program is expanded in 2006.

“This is another premium-growing opportunity that ASA and ISA are pleased to make available to our members and those growers who become members as part of this program,” said ASA Chairman Ron Heck.

Preete emphasized that Monsanto is committed to creating additional opportunities throughout the soybean industry with its low-linolenic program. “As with our other technology innovations, our intent with Vistive soybeans is to increase the choices available to growers by expanding the number of participating seed companies and soybean processors,” he said. “We anticipate adding seed and processing partners in 2006.”

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information on Monsanto, see http://www.monsanto.com.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com