Pharma rice firm targets the South (24/5/2005)

1.Ventria may grow rice outside U.S.
2.Biotech rice company moves again


Even Monsanto's home state of Missouri seems to be proving too hot for GM pharma rice firm Ventria - already on the run from California. First, it looked like Ventria might have to move its experimental rice-growing to North Carolina with the option of trying to grow it in Missouri next year. But now (as GM Watch predicted) with the US food industry breathing down its neck everywhere it tries to go, Ventria has its eyes on the South.

Be interesting to see whether the US administration helps Ventria on its way: "Dodgy industries selling dubious wares have long headed for the Third World when their activities have been questioned in the West. The biotech industry has been following this well-trodden path ever since consumers in Europe turned against GM food and crops. And these wares have had unprecedented backing from the US government, which has relentlessly bullied reluctant governments in developing countries to accept them." - Independent on Sunday, Leading Article: ''GM by the back door''


North Carolina represent[ed] the third move for Ventria after hostile receptions in Missouri and California for its biotech rice. (earlier article - item 2)

Now, the best option is outside of the United States...

"We are evaluating our options and looking at possible locations in Puerto Rico and South America" - Ventria''s president, Scott Deeter (latest article - item 1)


1.Ventria may grow rice outside U.S.
St. Joseph News Press, MO
[excerpts only - subscription article]

Ventria had originally planned to raise genetically modified rice in the Missouri Bootheel this year. But after Anheuser-Busch announced it would not purchase any Missouri-grown rice if the altered rice was planted, Ventria agreed not to grow the crop within 120 miles of commercial rice fields

Now, the best option is outside of the United States, said Scott Deeter, president of Ventria.

"We are evaluating our options and looking at possible locations in Puerto Rico and South America," he said. "Growing in the Southern Hemisphere will allow Ventria to diversify production locations and have two growing seasons per year."

...Plans to relocate the company to Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, however, are going forward, thanks to some help from the Missouri General Assembly

2.Biotech rice company moves again
By Jim Wasserman
Sacramento Bee, CA, April 30, 2005

A tiny Sacramento biotech firm that aims to revolutionize the production of medicine by growing it in rice said Friday it will end its quest to grow the crop in Missouri and instead plant a 5-acre experiment in North Carolina.

Ventria Bioscience also is exploring growing experimental rice in South America and Puerto Rico, said Scott Deeter, chief executive officer of the 12-year-old company.

Deeter cited opposition from "a pretty loud few" among Missouri rice farmers, a lengthy new approval process by federal agriculture authorities and a May 20 planting deadline for the decision to temporarily back off growing rice in Missouri this year.

"We didn't want to go through the process. We didn't have time to do that," Deeter said in a telephone interview Friday.

But he promised to return to Missouri next year.

North Carolina represents the third move for Ventria after hostile receptions in Missouri and California for its biotech rice. Though Deeter calls the rice a "phenomenal product that can make a difference in the world," farmers in both states expressed fears it would infiltrate the conventional rice fields and scare consumers.

Ventria wants to use the rice as a means to making lysozyme and lactoferrin, two proteins that could be used to develop anti-diarrhea drugs.

Many inside California's $500 million rice industry worried that cross-contamination could endanger exports to Japan.

St. Louis-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. threatened earlier this year to boycott Missouri rice if Ventria were allowed to plant pharmaceutical rice in the state, but it backed down this month when Ventria said it would plant the rice 120 miles from the state''s rice belt.

That change in location triggered requirements for time-consuming new approvals from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Deeter said the firm''s newest 5-acre site is in eastern North Carolina and is affiliated with North Carolina State University. But he said the plot, which has federal Agriculture Department approval, is not on the university's Raleigh-based campus.

Activists who oppose pharmaceutical rice experiments hailed Ventria''s Missouri announcement and pledged to shift their opposition campaigns to North Carolina.

"We're pretty convinced, with extreme weather conditions and human error, these pharmaceuticals are eventually going to get into the food supply," said Jane Rissler, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt expressed disappointment with Ventria''s decision.

"At this point we're hopeful Ventria will consider Missouri again for planting pharmaceutical rice," said spokeswoman Jessica Robinson. "It's very important to the governor to bring pharmaceutical crops and companies like Ventria to Missouri."

Deeter said Ventria will grow "breeding stock" for the experimental rice in four Missouri locations this year and continue design work for a processing facility to extract proteins from rice. The firm is leaving California this year and moving to a new headquarters at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.

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