As part of its “new way of doing business,” Monsanto has announced that it is purchasing 50 ethanol-fueled pick-up trucks for its fleet of company vehicles.

Monsanto President Hendrik Verfaillie says the company has placed the first U.S. corporate order to General Motors for Chevy Silverado pick-up trucks that use ethanol-based E85 fuel, a renewable fuel made from corn. They expect to take delivery on the new trucks this year.

“The more we invest in agriculture to develop renewable energy sources, the less we rely on foreign oil to secure our national economy,” Verfaillie said. “Each time we fill up our new trucks with E85 fuel, we're using about 10 bushels of corn, which offers the dual benefit of creating more demand for U.S. corn while cutting our reliance on oil from oversees.”

“America will be stronger when we get more of our fuel from the Midwest than we do from the Middle East, and Monsanto wants to make its contribution to that goal.”

While Monsanto's initial order of 50 trucks will account for only a small fraction of the company's 2,000 vehicles, Verfaillie says the ethanol-fueled vehicles will eventually account for the majority of Monsanto's fleet.

According to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, the corn-based fuel E85 blends 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. “Besides its superior performance characteristics, ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, it is a completely renewable, domestic, environmentally friendly fuel that enhances the nation's economy and energy independence,” the group said in a statement.

The decision by Monsanto to purchase the vehicles was based on a recommendation from the company's recently formed Grower Advisory Council. The council, established in April 2000, is made up of leaders from various commodity organizations.

“One thing we have committed to is to listen more,” Verfaillie said. “We formed an advisory council of our grower-customers, who told us that we needed to find ways to expand the markets of our customers, specifically identifying the area of bioenergy as a priority,” Verfaillie says.

Central to the newly announced commitment to bioenergy is the formation of a dedicated team within Monsanto that will research ways to use biotechnology and advanced breeding techniques to improve the quantity and quality of bioenergy materials, including finding ways to improve the economic and environmental benefits of biofuels. The Nov. 27 announcement to purchase the corn-fed trucks is the first initiative of Monsanto's new bioenergy team.

“Growers are our reason for doing business,” says Ross Bushnell, Monsanto's director of U.S. marketing. “It is important for us to help build new markets for American producers by investing in renewable energy, and at the same time, reducing our dependence on foreign oil sources.”

Verfaillie says, “The biofuel initiative embodies what we hoped the new Monsanto Pledge would inspire at our company — an approach to running our business that is based on broad input, careful consideration and beneficial outcomes.”

That pledge, according to the company, is its guide on how it behaves within an industry and a world that depends on agriculture as the building block of global security. The “pledge” is made up of five areas of commitment including, dialogue, transparency, respect, sharing and benefits.

Through the pledge, Monsanto basically promises that it will listen to diverse points of view, openly provide available information, share its knowledge and technology, and deliver on both its products and promises.

“The Pledge will be a foundation for how Monsanto will do business in the future,” says Verfaillie. “I have seen the effect making such genuine commitments can have. I have seen Monsanto employees wrestle with some of the more challenging commitments. I've seen this pledge inspire and energize our people, and I've seen it cause us to make decisions differently. Most importantly, I have seen the pledge make a positive difference in the way people perceive Monsanto and biotechnology.”


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.