Plant science center breaks ground

In France, plant scientists are after the perfect truffle. In Missouri, farmers would settle for the perfect soybean.

5.35 million acres, over $2.5 billion of sales in our state, University of Missouri President Gary Forsee said.

And the perfect bean, one resistant to pests and disease while providing maximum yield and nutrition, might one day come from a Missouri farm.

The future of agriculture found a home in Mexico, Mo. as dignitaries broke ground Monday morning on a long-anticipated plant science center for cutting edge research in bio-engineering.

The Missouri Plant Science Center, a joint effort of the Missouri Technology Corporation, MU and the City of Mexico, will house Soy Labs, a bioengineering firm relocating from California to mid-Missouri.

"Once thought unimaginable, plants are at the forefront of producing cleaner fuels, more nutritious foods, and a greener environment, Missouri Technology Corporation Joe Bannister said.

The Missouri Plant Science Center will be 25,000 square feet of offices, laboratories, and manufacturing equipment to process beans and other plants into new products.

Literally, in front of our eyes, the merging of research, companies, and the future, Gov. Jay Nixon said.

The $11 million facility has been in and out of the state budget a couple of times. Advocates gave Nixon credit for having the foresight to leave it in.

Mexico State Rep. Steve Hobbs also gets high marks for getting things organized over the past three years. But no one hears louder applause than Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, who fought congress for a commitment to bioengineering long before it was cool.

"This is the time for us to be the biotech alley...the agri-biotech alley of the 21st century, Sen. Kit Bond, (R) Missouri said.

Soy labs Inc. will produce soy-based ingredients for the food and health industries.

Company officials said they will create 20 new, high-paying jobs in Mexico at the outset, with a potential for more.