Mendel Biotechnology

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Mendel Biotechnologies, Inc. is a plant biotechnology research firm that does contract work for Monsanto, Bayer CropScience and BP, among others.[1][2] It is a private corporation[3] headquartered in Hayward, California. Its BioEnergy Seeds (MBS) division is located in Lafayette, Indiana, and it has other facilities internationally.[4]

Collaborations

Monsanto

According to the company, its "most important customer and collaborator . . . is Monsanto. . . . Mendel's long-term technology collaboration with Monsanto was initiated in 1997. Under the terms of the current agreement, Monsanto has exclusive royalty-bearing licenses to Mendel technology in certain large-acreage crops and vegetables. Monsanto's successful commercialization of products incorporating Mendel's technology will result in milestone and royalty payments. Importantly, Monsanto's most advanced soybean yield trait product [is] based on a Mendel-developed technology . . ."[5]

According to the company, a "centerpiece" of its growth in 2008 was the development of a "soybean yield product" by Monsanto, "the basis of which is a Mendel technology." These "soybean seed products" were "to be commercialized in North and South America." That year, they also collaborated with Monsanto on GMO corn variety development.[6]

Stephen R. Padgette, Monsanto's Vice President of R&D Investment Strategy, is on Mendel Biotechnology's Board of Directors.

BP

According to the company, "Mendel and BP entered into a strategic long-term collaboration in May 2007 for the development of a BioEnergy Seeds and Feedstocks business. The focus of the collaboration is the development and commercialization of seed products, both conventional and biotech varieties, for dedicated energy crops such as Miscanthus and switchgrass. This business is intended to serve the emerging 2nd generation biofuels industry both in the United States and abroad.

"Under the terms of the current agreement, Mendel owns the technology developed through the collaboration, Mendel owns and operates the seed and feedstock business, and BP receives royalties on seed sales."[5]

As of May 2009, BP funds "development of a new Mendel business, offering dedicated energy crops to refinery customers, including BP."[6]

Justin Adams, Director of Long Term Technology at BP, is on Mendel Biotechnology's Board of Directors.

Bayer CropScience

According to the company, its research partnership with Bayer CropScience "is a continuation of previous joint activities which focused on the elucidation of stress response mode of actions of Bayer agrochemicals like Imidacloprid and Trifloxystrobin. The program aims to discover and develop further chemical products that regulate plant stress tolerance, leveraging Mendel's knowledge of plant transcription factor pathways with the expertise of Bayer CropScience as a leader in agricultural chemistry."[5]

ArborGen

Mendel partners with ArborGen "to improve stress tolerance in selected tree species."[5] ArborGen is a joint collaboration between International Paper, MeadWestVaco Corp. and New Zealand's Rubicon Ltd. that, in August 2009, was "seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell the first genetically engineered forest trees outside China."

Genetically Engineered Tree Controversy

According to Bloomberg, through this venture, International Paper "plans to remake commercial forests in the same way Monsanto Co. revolutionized farms with genetically modified crops." Rubicon investor David Knott is quoted as saying, "This could take off faster than Monsanto.” "ArborGen’s eucalyptus would become the first engineered forest tree sold in the U.S., where disease-resistant plum and papaya trees already are permitted, according to a USDA database. China has planted about 1.4 million biotech black poplars since commercialization in 2002."[7]

"Engineered eucalyptus trees could be an ecological disaster, bringing increased fire risk and extraordinary water consumption to a new environment," according to Neil J. Carman of the Sierra Club. "Easier-to-pulp trees will be weak, and hurricanes will spread their pollen and contaminate native forests, he said."[7]

“These are Frankenforests,” Carman said. “You are tampering with Mother Nature in a big way by putting genetically engineered trees out there.”[7]

SweTree Technologies

Mendel collaborates with SweTree Technologies "for the development of improved varieties of plantation forest tree species."[5]

In October 2004, Mendel and SweTree Technologies announced a joint venture to "exploit the value of certain transcription factor (TF) genes within the $750 billion forestry field, among them the Hercules gene. The collaboration includes a research effort to validate certain Mendel lead TF genes for the forestry field as well as a commercial effort to advance identified products.

"SweTree Technologies is a research and development company that specializes in biotechnology for tomorrow's forest and agricultural industries. SweTree Technologies provides technologies and products for the seedling and forestry industry, fibre based industries such as pulp, paper and packaging industry, and for niche areas of the agricultural biotech business. SweTree Technologies main interest is in genes that improve the growth of trees and their wood and fibre properties. The company is associated with 45 renowned research leaders in plant and forest biotechnology residing in several universities in Sweden. SweTree Technologies AB was founded in 1999 by a joint initiative between the foundation of technology transfer (Teknikbrostiftelsen) in Umea and the company Woodheads AB."[8]

In March 2007, the two companies announced plans to extend the collaboration to include "a research effort to validate Mendel TF genes for the forestry field as well as a commercial effort to advance identified products." "We are very happy with the results from our first collaboration with SweTree which identified significant, beneficial traits in Poplar trees for the tested genes from Mendel," CEO Neal Gutterson said. "The forest industry has already shown interest in certain genes from the project," according to Mats Johnson, CEO of SweTree Technologies AB.[9]

MMR Genetics/Richardson Seeds

Mendel began a collaboration with MMR Genetics/Richardson Seeds in 2008 "to develop sorghum varieties differentiated for the bioenergy industry. Our focus is to maximize cellulosic biomass rather than starch or protein, which should provide superior varieties for bioenergy production. MMR Genetics is a leading sorghum breeding company, established in the mid 1990’s, associated with Richardson Seeds, one of the largest sorghum seed producers in the United States."[6]

Others

Mendel also partners with Selecta Klemm in a joint venture and Ornamental Biosciences, Inc., "for the commercialization of ornamental crop varieties differentiated in the marketplace for improved growth and survival under a range of stresses".[5]

Patents

As of November 2011, Mendel holds 27 issued biotechnology and GMO patents

Profit and Spending

Mendel Biotechnology is a private corporation. Its annual revenue and expenses are not available to the public online.

Political Activity and Lobbying

Mendel Biotechnology spent $210,000 on lobbying fro 2009-2012, through the lobbying firms American Capitol Group ($200,000) and Crowell & Moring ($10,000) and the individual lobbyists Jonathon Lehman, Florence Prioleau and John Thorne. The most frequently disclosed lobbying issues were Agriculture, Federal Budget & Appropriations, Environment & Superfund.[10]

History

Mendel Biotechnologies was co-founded in 1997 by Jonathan Jones, who is also the senior scientist at The Sainsbury Laboratory, based at the John Innes Centre, and currently "Scientific Advisory Board" member at Mendel.[2] Jones also co-founded Norfolk Plant Sciences Ltd., "to combine health promoting traits and disease resistance traits in potato and tomato."[11] When asked in August 2011 if "genetically-modified blight-resistant potato trials" are "worth the cost to the UK," Jones responded, "Yes, when you consider the cost of late blight is probably £60 million a year in the UK. It’s about £500 per hectare to control it, including labour, fuel and chemicals. Also that's not always completely successful so there’s always some losses anyway." He's also quoted as defending Monsanto's Roundup Ready by saying, "It's all very well to criticise Roundup Ready and Monsanto . . . but you have to come up with some solution that works otherwise you lose very large amounts of yield to weeds," and advising consumers that "the rational approach is to assume that everything is 'GM maybe', it's how everyone is living in the US."[2] (For more details on Mendel and Jones, see PowerBase's profile here.)

The company's early work focused on "understanding the functions of a large class of genes called transcription factors, in the model plant Arabidopsis . . ." From 2003 to the present, the company has focused on genetically modified corn and soybean varieties, eucalyptus trees, and ornamental plants. In 2005, the company entered the field of biofuels, collaborating with BP to create "proprietary varieties of energy grasses."[12]

Principals and Personnel

Board of Directors

Officers

Executive

Science Management

"Scientific Advisory Board"

Contact

Mendel Biotechnology, Inc.
3935 Point Eden Way
Hayward, California 94545-3720
USA
Phone: (510) 264-0280
Fax: (510) 264-0254
Email: helpdesk@mendelbio.com
Web: http://www.mendelbio.com/index.php

Articles & Resources

Other SourceWatch Resources

External Resources

References

  1. Mendel Biotechnologies, 2009 Annual Report, corporate annual report, May 15, 2010, accessed November 9, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Tom Levitt, "Public sector should develop GM crops for seed companies, says leading researcher," The Ecologist, August 1, 2011, accessed August 2, 2011
  3. Mendel Biotechnology, Inc., Bloomberg BusinessWeek, accessed November 9, 2011
  4. Mendel Technologies, Locations, corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Mendel Biotechnology, "Strategic Partners," corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Mendel Biotechnology, 2008 Annual Report, corporate annual report, May 1, 2009, accessed November 9, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Jack Kaskey, International Paper Treads Monsanto’s Path to ‘Frankenforests’, Bloomberg, August 28, 2009
  8. Mendel Biotechnology and SweTree Technologies, Mendel Biotechnology and SweTree Technologies will jointly exploit the value of certain genes in forestry: Collaboration agreement to investigate the Hercules and other transcription factor genes' function in trees, joint press release, October 29, 2004, accessed November 9, 2011
  9. Mendel Biotechnology and SweTree Technologies, Mendel Biotechnology and SweTree Technologies extend their collaboration to jointly exploit the value of more than 100 genes in forestry, joint press release, March 14, 2007, accessed November 9, 2011
  10. Sunlight Labs (Sunlight Foundation), Influence Explorer, Mendel Biotechnology 2005-2012, online campaign spending and lobbying report compiled from data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Institute for Money in State Politics, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Project On Government Oversight, the EPA and USASpending.gov, accessed November 9, 2011
  11. Two Blades Foundation, Professor Jonathan D. G. Jones, The Sainsbury Laboratory, foundation biography, accessed November 9, 2011
  12. Mendel Biotechnology, About Us: History, corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011
  13. Mendel Biotechnology, About Us: Directors, corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mendel Biotechnology, About Us: Team, corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011
  15. Mendel Biotechnology, About Us: Advisory Board, corporate website, accessed November 9, 2011