"Monsanto is going organic in search for the perfect veggie" That does want to make you read on, I must say.

That’s the headline of new coverage of Monsanto’s veggie breeding efforts published Jan. 21 by Wired.

After documenting Monsanto’s modern-day lightning rod status, this paragraph by Ben Paynter nicely captures the whole gist of the story:

"But here’s the twist: The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren’t genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same tech­nology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn’t mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark’s division is drawing on Monsanto’s accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor."

The feature focuses on executive David Stark and Monsanto’s vegetable business,  notably after its acquisition of Seminis in 2005. Since then, Monsanto has introduced non-GMO new produce varieties, including Beneforte broccoli (high levels of glucoraphanin, good for antioxidants), EverMild onions (reduced levels of tear-inducing lachrymatory factor), Melorange melon (a melon that won’t spoil when ripe) and Frescada lettuce (146% more folate, 74% more Vitamin C) and BellaFina peppers (smaller size for greater utility).

The “take-away” from the Wired piece isn’t that Monsanto hasn’t conquered all its critics - the 89 comments (and rising) by readers of the Wired piece as of Jan. 22 show Monsanto still has an image problem - but that the “new Monsanto way” of breeding using genetic markers and traditional cross-breeding may just give the agri-business giant a softer and more appealing image.