Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Superherbicides vs. Superweeds

Last week I noted that agribusiness giant Monsanto was scaling back its profit projections in the face of generic competition for its weed killer Roundup. Now, it turns out that the popular herbicide is getting some stiff competition from the weeds themselves.

Monsanto has profited greatly from selling “Roundup Ready” seeds. These varieties have been genetically engineered (GE) to survive being slathered in the company’s pesticide, which kills competing weeds. For years environmentalists have warned that the near-universal use of the herbicide in corn, soybeans, and cotton would eventually give rise to races of superweeds that also could survive Roundup—call them “Roundup Resistant.” Sure enough, that now is happening all over the farm belt. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Monsanto’s Last Roundup

In 2003, after losing nearly $2 billion the previous year, Monsanto bet its corporate life on a genetically modified future, much of which would be built on GM seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, and other crops that could survive being sprayed with the company’s brand-name herbicide Roundup. It was a good bet. Between 2003 and the end of 2007, shares soared by more than 1000 percent by the end of 2007.

But it looks like the ride may be over. Last week, the gigantic seed and agricultural chemical company announced dramatically lower-than-predicted profit expectations, laying much of the blame on sluggish sales of Roundup. Its once high-flying shares are now down 40 percent from last year’s levels. Monsanto told Reuters that it would “drastically narrow” its Roundup portfolio, which alone brought in nearly $2 billion in profit in 2009. Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics