Governor Blunt, Senator Bond Commend Companies for Achieving Fair Compromise

Governor Blunt, Senator Bond Commend Companies for Achieving Fair Compromise

Anheuser Busch and Ventria Agree to Support Life Science and Value-Added Agriculture Economic Development


ST. LOUIS – Today Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and U.S. Senator Kit Bond commend Anheuser Busch and Ventria Bioscience for achieving a compromise that will welcome a new technology company to Missouri , provide new opportunities for farmers, and help save the lives of 1.3 million children worldwide.


“This is a great day.  This compromise represents a huge step forward for the Missouri life sciences industry, value-added agriculture, and the important humanitarian goal of improving the health of children.  It is imperative our state has an environment that encourages the biotechnology industry and value-added agriculture opportunities, which will help sustain Missouri’s economy for generations to come,” Blunt said.  “Ventria exemplifies the type of progressive technology company and economic development we should continue to attract to our state because it provides tremendous economic opportunities in both rural and urban areas.  I am pleased that Anheuser Busch and Ventria have reached a fair compromise that furthers cutting-edge life-sciences technology while protecting current  markets for Missouri rice farmers.  Biotech companies from around the country, if not the world, are watching our state today, and this agreement sends a clear message that Missouri is a great place for technology.”


“I am very proud that friends have come together in good faith and reached an agreement that addresses all concerns while permitting this critical technology to find a welcome home here in Missouri ,” Bond stated.  “I congratulate Governor Blunt, the leadership at Anheuser Busch and Ventria, and the indispensable scientific, agricultural, and civic leaders who stuck to our commitment to put life sciences to work in Missouri to improve health and economic opportunity.  Missouri has great promise to become the life sciences capital of our nation.”


Ventria Bioscience has a permit pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow genetically modified rice in southeast Missouri counties, Cape Girardeau, Scott and Mississippi.  The rice is engineered to produce two types of human proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme, found in saliva, tears, and mothers’ milk.  The proteins help boost the human immune system and have important applications for children in the developing world who routinely suffer from dehydration cause by diarrhea and respiratory infections.  


Anheuser Busch originally stated it would not purchase Missouri commodity rice if the genetically modified rice was introduced in the state.  Through a compromise reached today, Ventria will plant its crop at least 120 miles away from other Missouri rice fields, and Anheuser Busch will continue to purchase rice grown in the state. 


Missouri is the sixth largest rice producing state.  Ventria came to Missouri as a result of Northwest Missouri State University’s recruiting efforts to help develop Missouri’s life sciences economy. 




Joint Statement on Ventria Situation

Representatives of Governor Matt Blunt’s office, the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Ventria Bioscience and Anheuser-Busch met today in St. Louis . In that meeting Anheuser-Busch voiced its continuing support for advances in the life sciences in Missouri as well as its support of Ventria Bioscience’s goal of producing medicines by growing pharmaceutical rice, while explaining its concerns for the safety of Missouri ’s rice crop. Those concerns were based on the fact that Ventria’s pharmaceutical rice has not yet received approval by the US Food and Drug Administration as safe for human consumption, that there is no commercially viable test for detecting the presence of this rice and that the location where Ventria proposed to grow the rice was too close to Missouri’s commercial rice growing regions. Ventria also voiced concerns about the impact on the Missouri rice market if Anheuser-Busch discontinues purchasing Missouri rice.
As a result of the discussion, Ventria has agreed not to proceed with its plans to grow rice in Scott County and the group agreed that Missouri government, Ventria, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Anheuser-Busch will work together to find other locations in Missouri where Ventria can grow its rice and continue its commercialization effort. Such areas will be 120 miles or more away from commercial rice growing areas, which, along with the containment protocols that Ventria had already offered to follow, will ensure that Missouri’s existing rice crop will be unaffected. The members of the group will also work together to resolve the federal approval and testing issues as quickly as possible. As a result of the agreement reached at the meeting, Anheuser-Busch will be able to purchase rice grown and processed in Missouri as long as Ventria’s growing areas remain sufficiently far from commercial rice production.

April 15, 2005