Biofarma in Puerto Rico?
This was sent to me by Bill Freese of Friends of the Earth
Tuesday, May 24, 2005 – St. Joseph News-Press
Ventria may grow rice outside U.S.
Ventria Bioscience is looking for other locations to grow pharmaceutical rice.
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.
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. The company considered planting plots in Southwest Missouri, but there was not enough time for a federal permit to be approved.
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.”
The company already has a permit to grow pharmaceutical rice in North Carolina. Mr. Deeter said he had no regrets about signing the agreement with Anheuser-Busch not to grow rice in the Bootheel, noting it leaves open the potential to grow rice in Missouri in the future.
The St. Louis brewery’s threat to boycott Missouri rice came as a surprise, said Rep. Brad Lager, R-Maryville. “We were fortunate enough to work through it,” he said.
The problems Ventria has faced in establishing its plant-made pharmaceutical business underscore the need for a business incubator, Mr. Lager said.
The Legislature approved $1.1 million this year, with about $10 million promised in the future, to build a Center of Excellence at Northwest. The center would help not just Ventria, but other high-tech companies to become established, Mr. Lager said.
“When you’re a small company, there’s always days when you hit road bumps,” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect the delay to interfere with Ventria’s long-term success.
Plans are under way to raise the $20 million needed from local and federal sources to secure the state funding, said Dr. Frank Veeman, assistant to the president at Northwest. Building design is currently under way.
“This company is on track to be here in the first half of ’06,” Dr. Veeman said.
In addition, Northwest has planted four small research plots of regular rice.
“We planted different varieties to get a feeling of what would be the most productive,” he said.
Eventually, the university would like to find a variety that will grow in Northwest Missouri that can be genetically altered to contain human proteins that can be processed into medicine.
Mr. Deeter said Ventria is still considering options for next year’s crop and will design production plans after it has the yield results from the test plots in Missouri.
An unusually cold spring has slowed the crop’s growth somewhat.
“We’re enthused and looking forward to seeing the rice come up,” Dr. Veeman said.