This is Ishtarmuz’s rebuttal to: Company of the Year The Planet Versus Monsanto
Robert Langreth and Matthew Herper, 12.31.09, 04:40 PM EST
Forbes Magazine dated January 18, 2010
Monsanto’s first round of attackers said its seeds were evil. Now the charge is that Monsanto’s seeds are too good.
No, Monsanto has had ongoing critics for the last 100 years and these critics have pointed out the facts that the actions of this company have been consistently evil. They are evil actions because they have no idea what the effects of what they sell will have on people, and when negative effects are discovered, then they consistently have hid those effects from the public, lied in court, divested themselves of the product unit, and moved on to another product. This is part of a successful market strategy mimicked by all the biotech cum pharmaceutical cum chemical companies.
Moreover, no, their product is not too good. They have bullied everyone out of the market from the small farmer to their biotech competitors by first contract, then coercion, and then court cases. The second arm of their market strategy is to have a legal department as big as the propaganda division. So that they can make a profit before they divest themselves of the liability of the destruction left in the wake of their products. They learned this strategy from the government, when war allowed what was unthinkable in peacetime with the added bonus that the government could market their products for free and fund their research and development. All that was needed to continue this process was to lobby the peacetime government to continue the rules of war and the congressional military industrial complex was born.
Monsanto biochemist Roy Fuchs takes fish oil pills every morning in hopes of warding off heart disease. He’d much rather get his omega‑3 fatty acids in a granola bar or cup of yogurt. But it is tricky to add omega‑3s to food products without adding unwanted flavors. After a while on the shelf, omega‑3‑enriched products can smell and taste like old fish, he says.
So where are the long term peer reviewed studies showing that combining the genes of an animal into a plant has no adverse effects on the environment? Feed me Seymour.
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful product to have for sale? Stops heart disease‑‑and protects the environment, too. People could get their nutritional supplements without depleting fish stocks.
I don’t know, would it? The first study that comes to mind here is to test feeding fish the food that has the fish genes in it. Mad cow disease anyone? How about just mad soy disease?
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.
That the company makes money says nothing. A drug dealer makes lots of money. A good drug dealer can ruthlessly make it to the top of the heap. Why doesn’t Forbes just name a drug cartel the company of the year? This article reads more like a quarterly report to stockholders that was given to Forbes as press release than a real article saying anything of consequence.
But economic achievement is not the same thing as public adulation. Over most of the time that Monsanto has been working to make humanity better fed, it has been the object of vicious criticism. …
Why isn’t their GMO labels on our food? Let me see. The paternalist patronizing tone here, most of which I have not quoted, says clearly that Monsanto believes they know better than the ignorant public that they are only out to serve. Therefore, we have no GMO labels on our food because Monsanto needed to sneak the GMOs into all our food before we found out. To that end they lobbied government to define what were sufficient pre-market tests of the product and then after the fact wrote the rules for what would be the tests of products in the future.
Over time the protests have mellowed, and the legal impediments to GM are gradually falling. It didn’t make sense for a hungry planet to reject tools to increase the productivity of farmers. Much of Europe, while still forbidding the planting of GM crops, permits the importation of foods made from them.
The protests have not even begun. I am seeing an all out revolution across the globe due to Monsanto’s attempt to monopolize via patent as much of the life on Earth as they can corner. This without even having a valid argument that what they are doing is a well understood process as they use a splatter gun to inject the genes of multiple species into genomes that they could not completely functionally describe before such modifications.
As one commenter said, “Well Gee‑Golly Monsanto!!! Thanks for water‑less watermelons you damn spider monkeys!!! Seriously people, when you look in the mirror what do you see?”
But now Monsanto has a new round of enemies. This time its supposed sin is making seeds that are too good. The company has something too close to a monopoly in some seed markets. The public is hard to please, isn’t it? But Monsanto perseveres. It has been in biotech long enough to develop a thick corporate skin.
Chief Executive Hugh Grant, 51, is both manager and evangelist. …
This is the first bit of truth in the whole article. However, Mr. Grant can only evangelize about his bottom line that is as I have said, no more than the bottom line of a drug dealer.
By marrying conventional breeding with genetic engineering, Monsanto aims to produce more food for less money on the same amount of land. Conventional breeding‑‑these days a high‑tech matchmaking process guided by DNA sequencing machines‑‑will help boost maximum yields. Biotech genes will ensure that pests, weeds, drought and other problems don’t destroy a crop’s potential…
Carefully their failures at this are not mentioned, where they were outperformed by conventional cross breeding.
Farmers complain about Monsanto’s prices, but they still buy the seeds. …
Failing to mention that they have rigged the game so that the farmers have no choice.
But agriculture is not a business that tolerates resting on your laurels. Monsanto faces a rough 2010. Rivals are producing more competitive products, and farmers are likely to resist further price increases. Sales of the herbicide Roundup, the company’s second‑biggest product, have been declining as renewed availability of raw materials allows other companies to make cheap generics. Monsanto laid off 8% of its staff this fall. Another headache: The Justice Department is looking broadly at competition in agriculture‑‑and is asking questions about Monsanto’s practices in particular.
Again, this article is done in the manner of a quarterly report that must mention the down side by law, albeit in the most favorable light. This article is much in the mode of faux news. Forbes has become their front here. They are little more than shills with fake and manufactured journalism taken directly from Monsanto’s, and their political tentacle’s, talking points. The irony here is that all the fuss about antitrust is smoke and mirrors. A monopoly is the real antithesis of free market capitalism and the misdirection of breaking up the monopoly cuts the worm into pieces to grow bigger ones that were never really broken up in the real world anyway.
One trend in Monsanto’s favor:…
So we balance the good with the bad and make a projection.
The business model here is productivity:…
Anything they say here is translated as profit per unit of sale minus any golden skeletons hiding in the closet.
Monsanto’s other main line of products…
Yes, we have been doing this for years and they have lost very few lawsuits. The method is tested. Let them cite a testimonial for you.
Even some organic farmers are clamoring for genetically modified crops. Don J. Cameron grows both organic and conventional cotton on his farm in Helm, Calif. The organic fields cost $500 per acre to weed by hand, versus only $30 an acre for glyphosate‑immune fields. Lately he can’t even sell organic cotton because the stuff coming out of India, Syria and Uganda is so cheap. “I feel the organic industry has painted itself in a corner saying that all genetically modified organisms are bad. Eventually they’re going to have to allow it,” Cameron says.
And you can bet that his non-GMO cotton is contaminated with the GMO cotton. So he can’t sell it as organic and when he tries to sell it otherwise he will be sued by Monsanto for stealing their GMO product without buying the seed as many organic farmers have found out too late.
The enemies haven’t disappeared entirely. A 2009 Union of Concerned Scientists study calculated that only 14% of recent corn‑crop yield increases are due to genetically engineered Bt corn. Roundup‑ready corn and soy seeds don’t increase crop yield at all, it found. Genetic engineering of crops “is inherently risky,” says Greenpeace Policy Director Marco Contiero. “We cannot recall crops that are released into the environment.” He says Monsanto’s dominance decreases seed biodiversity.
They haven’t even started. Longer term peer reviewed studies are just that, long term, and they are not designed to fit into corporate bottom lines. Some eager, read stupid, executives will always rush a product to market with insufficient tests as Monsanto has done repeatedly.
Monsanto, formed in 1901, was a food additives and chemical company before starting crop biotech research in 1981. Its biotech crops come out of the same genetic engineering revolution that produced companies like Genentech ( DNA ‑ news ‑ people ) and Amgen ( AMGN ‑ news ‑ people ). But while biotech medicines hit the market in 1982 with the approval of recombinant insulin, biotech crops took longer to develop. (The chemical business was spun off in 1997.)
Some truth in advertising is always good, but be sure to mention some reputable companies in association with yours. These authors are no more than shills.
Some of the difficulty was technical. It took a while to figure out how to regenerate whole plants from genetically modified plant cells. In one method scientists would blast new genes into plant cells at high velocity with a gene gun. An advance came in the early 1980s, when researchers at Monsanto and, independently, in Europe discovered that the soil bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens could do the job more precisely. The bacteria cause benign tumors called crown gall disease in trees. Researchers remove disease‑causing genes from the bacteria, add new genes of interest and then mix the bacteria and plant cells in a petri dish; the bacteria do the hard work of inserting the new genes into the plant. Most of Monsanto’s genetic engineering work still uses this method.
Hello. It took so long? It took so long for a splatter gun trail and error to be used to inject new genes from different species into a disease causing bacteria? Where is the body of literature from what was learned from the errors? So much was learned from those experiments that they had to remove the disease from a bacteria that already had the ability to latch onto another species and change it’s DNA. Why didn’t you just use a cancer cell, it might have been faster? Oh, that is Novatis technology.
Monsanto’s foray into biotechnology was controversial from the start. Its first genetically engineered product, bovine growth hormone for boosting milk production, was introduced in 1994 to a furious debate over whether it was deleterious to health. “It probably wasn’t the wisest product to bring out first,” admits Earl Harbison, Monsanto’s president from 1986 to 1993. “But we had it.” (Monsanto sold the product line to Eli Lilly ( LLY ‑ news ‑ people ) in 2008.)
After suppressing the story, cooking the books and divesting the product, it is now safe to say it probably was not wise. The jury is still out on this one, among many others.
Initially Monsanto aimed to roll out biotech seeds slowly, Harbison says, building consensus by engaging potential critics. “Seeds are not products people have to accept,” he says. The go‑slow approach evaporated when Robert Shapiro, who had been head of Monsanto’s former Nutrasweet business, became Monsanto’s chairman. Highly promotional, Shapiro courted the press with stories about how Monsanto’s crops were going to help the environment by reducing pesticides and pushed seeds through friendly regulators. A backlash was inevitable.
You mean backlashes from things like the pesticides not being biodegradable as advertised, habituation to the pesticide reducing yield too quickly and creating super weeds? You mean backlashes from lies from an over eager executive?
Making crops resistant to Roundup was an obvious idea. But it proved difficult to do until someone came up with the clever idea of trying genes from bacteria living in the wastewater near a Roundup plant….
Besides saying that you developed this from something that could survive a toxic waste site, not a brilliant move in itself, but then to brag on how quickly you converted something living in toxic sludge into something we all are now eating is even more foolish. Only the most unethical of biochemists could possibly think this was a good idea.
When drug giant Pharmacia (now Pfizer ( PFE ‑ news ‑ people )) agreed to merge with Monsanto in 1999 to snag its arthritis drugs, Pharmacia shares dropped because drug investors wanted no part of the controversial seed business. The genetically modified crop controversy reached a climax in 2000, when a competing genetically modified corn product‑‑one not approved for human consumption‑‑was detected in Kraft taco shells, prompting a nationwide recall and yet more bad publicity.
Now we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. The least ethical chemical company merges with the least ethical pharmaceutical company.
When Monsanto was spun off from Pharmacia in 2002 sales of the synthetic seeds were gaining, but the company was not making money on them. “We were a mile wide and an inch deep,” recalls Monsanto molecular biologist David Stark. There were research projects in everything from wheat to turf grass to coffee. Hugh Grant, a company lifer who snared the top job in 2003, killed most of these projects and bet heavily on three big crops‑‑corn, soybeans and cotton. These crops were the most likely to generate sales big enough to justify the $100 million investment that new genetically engineered crops require. Bioengineered corn and soybeans are less controversial because they are rarely sold directly to consumers.
More honesty. They invested in what was mostly used as food additives so they could sneak them onto the market.
Grant also realized that genetic engineering alone was not enough for success in the seed business. It cannot replace conventional breeding methods, which allow crop scientists to create hundreds of seed varieties tailored to different soils and weather. …
No one says they are that stupid, just short sighted and unethical. So you take the best seeds and you modify them. At some point you will stop using unmodified seeds in the conventional cross breeding because all seed traits needed to survive in the future modified environment will only be genetically modified seeds. So the term conventional cross breeding will become meaningless.
Grant’s job gets more difficult from here on out. A main patent on Roundup‑ready soybean seed expires in 2014. This could threaten $500 million in royalties Monsanto gets from licensing this genetic trait to competitors, estimates JPMorgan. Monsanto just introduced a second‑generation herbicide‑tolerant product that it says will produce 7% more soybeans per acre. But rivals like DuPont are working on their own herbicide‑tolerant seeds. …
So the unethical business model is being used by it’s nearest competitors. We are again are just talking money, power and the bottom line. Wasn’t this the last temptation of Christ?
Then there are antitrust questions. Competitors like DuPont, which has countersued Monsanto on antitrust grounds, and some farmer groups object to Monsanto’s licensing agreements with numerous small seed companies. They say the agreements are too restrictive and limit other companies’ ability to blend in their own traits. Monsanto says the Department of Justice has made inquiries “similar to the claims made by DuPont” in its lawsuit. “Concentration in the seed industry has resulted in higher prices and less choice” for farmers, complains William Wenzel of the Wisconsin nonprofit Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering. Wisconsin dairy farmer Paul Rozwadowski blames Monsanto for the difficulties he has had finding the conventional corn seed that he has used for decades. “Monsanto is taking over the industry,” he says. “They are trying to eliminate all conventional seed.”
This may be all true, but it is still missing the bigger point. What are they really going to do if the antitrust lawsuits are won? Experience has taught us that breaking up an unethical monopoly only leads to creating many more of them that will be bigger and more lethal than the mother corporation. Just look at IG Farben and ask anyone how effective a government military industrial complex is in generating money and power at the expense of the individual and society.
Since 2005 Monsanto has been gradually moving back into other food crops, including fruits and vegetables. Among the projects in the works are a lettuce with the crunch of iceberg and the nutrients of romaine, and a watermelon whose flesh doesn’t leak after being cut. This research involves conventional breeding. Monsanto abandoned its biotech wheat research in 2004 after it proved too controversial. In July Monsanto reentered the wheat business by acquiring conventional breeder WestBred for $45 million. It hopes to use genetic engineering to create drought‑tolerant varieties.
So now that the memories of Anniston, Alabama is fading, Monsanto can move on to the remaining unmodified food products without the worry of anyone mentioning that they can be trusted as far much as any Nazi.
“When people are confused or worried the natural tendency is to just say no,” says Monsanto scientist Stark. “The only thing we can do is produce products with real benefits and hope that people eventually become comfortable what we are doing is good.”
Monsanto can only hope that we just say no. I envision a backlash that not only draw and quarter their corporate personhood, but imprison each piece behind a wall of science and morality that it will take their army of lawyers another hundred years to put it back together.
So the one question that remains is who was this quarterly report written for? Who are the investors? After looking at the brain trust of investors, all I have to say is that if these guys go down, then watch your wallets again. Watch for the future Biotech bubble.