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Dr. Robert T. Fraley is executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto Co., St. Louis.

Y: Monsanto's new corporate theme is "Imagine" - how does that fit Monsanto's research mission/vision and its biotech focus for the future?

Monsanto Company announced recently its new tagline - "Imagine," which we believe illustrates the company's focus on delivering innovative agricultural solutions and benefits to growers, their farming operations and end-market consumers. Furthermore, we believe the tagline reflects the company's strategic focus on investing in and developing new agronomic tools, and it clearly identifies Monsanto as a high-tech, agricultural company with leadership positions in crop chemistry, seeds, traits and animal agriculture businesses.

Our customers understand that Monsanto has made a bet on biotechnology. While the rest of the industry is devoting almost three-quarters of its R&D dollars on chemistry, the great majority of Monsanto's $527 million R&D budget is focused on seeds and genomics. Our R&D focus is unique when you compare it with others in the ag industry.

Y: What is the outlook of the ag biotech sector?

We believe that the ag biotech sector has a bright future. Given the generally accepted trends in population growth over the next 20 to 30 years, some have estimated that the per-acre productivity of land currently under cultivation will need to increase by approximately 75 percent. We believe strongly that these productivity gains are more likely to be achieved through the tools of modern biology - including plant biotechnology, genomics and molecular breeding - than through the development of synthetic chemicals. Overall, our U.S. business is leading Monsanto's transformation from a company based on a strong chemistry portfolio to a company based on seeds and biotechnology.

Y: How/when will Monsanto's focus shift from input traits to output traits?

As you may already know, Monsanto is just one of many players that is involved in these areas of research. Currently, researchers at many companies, universities and research institutions are actively engaged in the research and development of input and output traits.

The first generation of products - these are largely input traits - have set the stage as researchers work on the products of tomorrow. At Monsanto, we're working on both sides of the equation. We'll continue to work on innovations that can provide farmers with tools that help them improve their productivity, while pursuing specific projects with members of the food industry. For example, we're excited about the progress we're making on drought tolerance and yield increase projects in corn and soybeans. We're also seeing encouraging results from our work on Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to cardiovascular health. Finally, through our Renessen joint venture with Cargill, we are pursuing several products which will improve animal nutrition.

There are obviously a series of necessary milestones that need to be achieved prior to the commercialization of any of these new technologies. That's why we think that input and output traits will co-exist for quite a while.

Y: What will trait stacking bring to the farmer and to the industry?

Farmers have told us they don't want to choose between dead weeds and dead bugs. Stacking traits not only provides farmers with one-stop shopping but also represents incremental margin on a bag of seed for those providing farmers with seed and chemical inputs.

Y: What are the overall goals and objectives of Monsanto's biotech initiatives?

As a company, we are committed to researching new agronomic systems that are more environmentally sustainable for our customers and are aimed at delivering value across the agricultural chain.

In the years ahead, Monsanto will tailor our business and our strategy to meet the needs of our customers. Our commitment to an integrated solutions approach remains strong.

This approach offers producers a complete package of seeds, biotech traits and chemistry. We believe this approach helps farmers become even more efficient and improves their overall productivity. This is a unique approach in this industry, and it is something that sets us apart from the competition.

Y: What are critical success factors needed to achieve these goals?

For Monsanto's R&D organization, we need to continue to do three things extraordinarily well: make informed choices in managing our R&D efforts; take prudent risks; and focus on what we do best. That's the approach we've taken for more than a decade, and it has led to our leadership position of commercializing 10 biotechnology traits products since 1996. We're proud of our track record in bringing new products forward, and the prospects for new solutions are bright.

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