Monsanto needs crowd-pleasers like this to get past its image problems. In economic terms, the company is a winner. It has created many billions of dollars of value for the world with seeds genetically engineered to ward off insects or make a crop immune to herbicides: Witness the vast numbers of farmers who prefer its seeds to competing products, and the resulting $44 billion market value of the company. In its fiscal 2009 Monsanto sold $7.3 billion of seeds and seed genes, versus $4 billion for second-place DuPont ( DD – news – people ) and its Pioneer Hi-Bred unit. Monsanto, of St. Louis, netted $2.1 billion on revenue of $11.7 billion for fiscal 2009 (ended Aug. 31). Its sales have increased at an annualized 18% clip over five years; its annualized return on capital in the period has been 12%. Those accomplishments earn it the designation as FORBES’ Company of the Year.Why, sure, making lots of money is not just good thing, it’s the only thing! Certainly more valuable than any associated detriments. Detriments such as human birth defects studied in France, and Argentina, in addition to birth defects, diseases, and mass die-offs in amphibians, birds, and insects. Those detriments are just economic externalities.
— The Planet Versus Monsanto, Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper, 12.31.09, 04:40 PM EST Forbes Magazine dated January 18, 2010
Hey, monoculture is a sign of success, according to Forbes:
Farmers complain about Monsanto’s prices, but they still buy the seeds. Ninety percent of the U.S. soybean crop and 80% of the corn crop and cotton crop are grown with seeds containing Monsanto’s technology. Other countries are also growing Monsanto’s biotech crops, including India, with 20 million acres of cotton; Brazil, with 35 million acres of soybeans; and Argentina, with 43 million acres of soybeans. (Brazil once blocked genetically modified plants, but farmers planted the crops anyway, and it eventually legalized them.) Packaged foods with corn syrup or soybean oil likely contain the fruits of Monsanto’s gene-modified agriculture.Nevermind farmers buy Monsanto’s seeds because they think they have no choice, because Monsanto is putting other seed producers out of business. So Monsanto takes advantage of its monopoly to jack up seed prices 42% in one year.
Besides, Monsanto tells us Roundup is “biodegradable” and “left the soil clean.” Who’re you going to believe? Forbe’s Company of the Year or the French Supreme Court, which found Monsanto guilty of lying about that. Maybe Monsanto will get the French to rewrite like they did Fox News about RGBH.
After all, as Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant points out:
“There is bigger demand for food than ever. There is no new farmland.”Nevermind that Organic Farming yields are often better than with agrochemicals. You can’t patent manure! Oh, wait, I shouldn’t give Monsanto any ideas….
There’s some possibility of antitrust action against Monsanto. And if U.S. health insurers can no longer kick people off when they get sick, suddenly insurers will have incentive to stop big agribusiness from making people sick in the first place. It’s Monsanto’s seeds that produce most of the corn that is made into High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) that makes U.S. people obese; so obese there are as many obese as health weight people in the U.S. today. That wouldn’t happen without massive federal subsidies to agribusiness. What Congress giveth Congress can taketh away if an even bigger lobby wants it to.
Meanwhile, at least one type of farmer is defeating Monsanto’s pesticides. Coca farmers in Bolivia have developed Boliviana negra, which is resistant to Roundup.