Monday, October 30, 2006

There being no significant food shortage anywhere...

And all other problems in the World having been solved, Monsanto turns its attention to Halloween:

Monsanto Co. scientist Bill Johnson is trying to breed the perfect pumpkin peduncle.

Stout and dark green, the modern-day peduncle, known as a stem outside the plant breeding world, is the result of decades of intensive breeding, Johnson said. The goal: making the perfect jack-o'-lantern lid.

"If you look at the really old (pumpkin) varieties, their peduncles were really lame compared to the peduncles that are out there now," Johnson said.

Better known around the world for its genetically engineered commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, Monsanto got into the pumpkin business last year when it purchased Oxnard, Calif.-based Seminis Inc.


Pumpkins are big business in the United States, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Production has steadily increased since 2002, with about 680 million kilograms of pumpkins sold last year.

The crop, which is mostly sold around Halloween, was worth about US$106 million in 2005, according to the Agriculture Department.
So, what's the big deal about a pumpkin stem?

Johnson said customers want deep orange colours and dark green stems that don't snap off when you use them to carry the pumpkin. His job is to breed varieties with those qualities with other strains that are resistant to certain viruses or the dreaded powdery mildew. (Emphasis mine)
If you need to know more about Halloween pumpkins and things, this is a pretty good place to go.

And, if you would like to read a little more about Monsanto's affinity for orange, this is a good start.

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