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Monsanto is Back - to Force Genetically Engineered Wheat Down Your Throat

Five years after shelving plans for biotech wheat, Monsanto is re-entering the wheat business with the purchase of a Montana seed company.

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, the biggest seller of genetically modified seed, agreed to pay $45 million for WestBred LLC and could introduce new wheat varieties within a few years. WestBred specializes in wheat germplasm, the seed's genetic material.

The size of the deal isn't significant for a company such as Monsanto, whose annual sales exceed $10 billion. But the company's return to a market it abruptly exited in 2004 is noteworthy, especially at a time when demand for wheat to make breads and pasta is growing.

"Wheat is an important crop and has suffered from a lack of technology investment," said Carl Casale, Monsanto's executive vice president of global strategy of and operations. "Over the last several years, its productivity has fallen behind other row crops like corn and soybeans."

The announcement also comes as Monsanto is looking to its seed business as sales of Roundup herbicide are declining at a faster-than-expected pace because of increased global competition. 

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