updated 3/9/2005 2:40:49 PM ET 2005-03-09T19:40:49

Agribusiness titan Monsanto Co. has teamed with a biotechnology company and the U.S. government in a bid to unlock the genetic code of soybeans, hoping to supply breeders with technology that makes the crop more resistant to disease and drought.

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As part of the deal unveiled Wednesday, Monsanto, Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research arm seek to map DNA markers in soybeans, creating a detailed molecular genetic map.

That information then will be freely available to U.S. soybean breeders and geneticists on federal databases and in scientific journals, creating the first publicly available map of its kind.

"What we learn from this research will be critical in our search for additional insights into ways to improve the characteristics, production rates and disease resistance of a variety of field crops, including soybeans and other plant species," said Gerald Vovis, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Genaissance, based in New Haven, Conn.

Without specifying financial terms of the deal, the companies said Monsanto would fund the mapping that will be done entirely by Genaissance, given that company's experience.

Such partnerships are not new. Last year, Monsanto and two other companies transferred their corn-sequencing information to a Web database searchable by scientists looking to unlock that vegetable's genetic code.

As part of that deal, Monsanto, Iowa-based DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Monsanto research partner Ceres Inc., based in Malibu, Calif., agreed to release their data on the corn genome to researchers at nonprofit institutions, for noncommercial use.

With a goal of sequencing the corn genome by 2007 — perhaps several years ahead of when it otherwise would be completed — scientists hope to hasten development of biotech crops perhaps more resilient to drought or that can produce more nutritious corn or fibers.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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