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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Monsanto Loses Roundup Patent and Sales, Axes Employees

No wonder Monsanto picked South Dakota State University President David Chicoine for their corporate board: they need SDSU to whip some new patentable invention to replace Roundup. Monsanto is cutting 900 jobs—4% of its workforce—in response to a 47% drop in quarterly sales of Roundup and its other herbicides.

What happened? I'd like the headline to be "Organic Methods Take Bite out of Big Chemical Ag." But the drop in sales comes more directly from the expiration of Monsanto's patent on Roundup, which has forced the company to lower prices to compete. Cool wet weather has also delayed some application.

Monsanto probably won't be pushing Chicoine and SDSU too hard for new herbicides and pesticides: Monsanto is moving away from its proud tradition of manufacturing chemicals like Agent Orange and focusing on "seeds, traits, and biotechnology," like breeding more buff broccoli. That focus will also likely include further intimidation tactics against organic dairies, regular farmers, canola growers whose fields Monsanto contaminates, and its corporate competitors.

But surely Monsanto will make sure its genetic engineering produces safe food for consumers, right?

Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food.... Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job [Phil Angell, Monsanto director of corporate communications, quoted by Michael Pollan, "Playing God in the Garden," New York Times Magazine, 1998.10.25].

Hmmm... so any chance we'll see SDSU doing major research on organic food?

Be careful, Dr. Chicoine: that's not the nicest crowd you're running with. I'm not sure they could pay me enough to associate myself and my public university with a corporate partner like Monsanto.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never read that Pollan article, "Playing God in the Garden" before. Though it was written in 1998, it's still timely. Thanks for that link!



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