University of Missouri agricultural research cultivates profits for industry 2

University of Missouri agricultural research cultivates profits for industry

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An investigation into one major research university highlights the ethically murky world of industry-funded academia.

In 2006, Zhanyuan Zhang, a University of Missouri professor of plant sciences, was approached by Dow AgroSciences. The industry giant came bearing pieces of DNA and a problem for Zhang to solve.

Industrial agriculture faced a new wave of herbicide-resistant weeds in fields worldwide, which threatened to make Roundup — the most popular weedkiller among farmers — useless. Dow wanted to create a new strain of soybeans that could tolerate a different herbicide. Because Zhang is an expert in transforming plant genetics, the company tapped him to help.

“They want to hit the market as quickly as possible,” Zhang said. “And they found my lab as a collaborator.”

The public-private collaboration was a success on both sides.



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