Monsanto Now Owns 90 Percent of the World’s Transgenic Crops

Popular Science just published a profile on agribusiness giant Monsanto, looking at the nitty gritty of how the company develops and produces its genetically modified seeds. Monsanto obviously has reasons to avoid the press; continued bans on its products by European countries and news of the company’s lawsuits against thousands of small farmers and antitrust problems with the government have certainly not endeared it to the public. Read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma or watch the Oscar-nominated Food Inc. and you’ll probably come away with the impression that Monsanto is run by Hitler and Satan’s illicit love child. Still, the company, worth an estimated $44 billion, dominates the marketplace, owning 90 percent of all transgenic crops in the world.

Monsanto begins the process by testing hundreds of plants and animals for desirable traits (in this case, omega-3 fatty acids for soybeans), inserting the desired traits via bacteria that trick the plant into accepting its genes, and testing each seed in one of the 108 climate-controlled chambers on the 1.5 million square-foot St. Louis campus.

A marvel of modern technology, yes. Monsanto promises crops with higher yields, resistance to disease and extra nutrients. These all sound like good things, but to get at the heart of why there is so much animosity directed at Monsanto, we have to head back to 1980 and the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty. Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty was a genetic engineer at General Electric who tried to get a patent for bacteria that broke down crude oil. He was rebuffed by the Patent Office but won an appeal with the Supreme Court, which set the precedent that genetically modified organisms could indeed be patented.

So began Monsanto’s rise after starting as a chemical company that developed both DDT and Agent Orange. Monsanto developed seeds that were resistant to its weedkiller, Roundup. You could plant these seeds, spray the whole area with Roundup and your Monsanto-engineered plants would be the only things left standing.

That’s where we come to our second important court case, Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser. Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto, who said he was planting its Roundup-resistant canola seeds illegally. Scheiser maintains that Monsanto’s seeds, widely used in the area, polluted his own seeds, resulting in a high concentration of Roundup-resistant canola plants on his farm. The implications of Monsanto’s successful lawsuit were huge. First, it showed that Monsanto could essentially randomly test any farm and if it found any of its genetically engineered plants growing, no matter how they got there, it could sue the farmer. It also put a spotlight on the stranglehold Monsanto had on farmers who could now no longer save their own seeds but rather had to buy new seeds every year from Monsanto, along with pesticides, weed killers and all of the other equipment that went with Monsanto’s very integrated crop program.

As Monsanto continues its global expansion, its private ownership over a huge percentage of the global crop supply has wide implications (see the video below). Say you’re a poor farmer in India or Africa. In the past, you have planted crops the way people have done it since agriculture was first discovered; planting seeds, harvesting crops and then saving the seeds for the next growing season.

All of a sudden, Monsanto owns nearly all of the seeds on the market. You have seeds of your own but TV ads are telling you can yield much more cotton with Monsanto’s seeds. All of a sudden, you are trying to grow seeds without the proper conditions to do so, using pesticides you weren’t using before and having to buy new seeds at the end of the year. Its easy to see how a poor, illiterate farmer in an undeveloped nation could all of  sudden find himself in a hopeless, indentured servitude to a comapany like Monsanto. And what if, like in Percy Schmeiser’s case, Monsanto’s seeds cross-pollinate and take over the majority of fields in the world? What if a handful of private companies, the biggest one by far being Monsanto, essentially owned every seed on Earth? In 100 years, could private companies own every kind genetically “superior” crop and farm animal, from fast-growing pigs to vitamin-enriched corn?

Questions like these aren’t too far-fetched. When we envision our ideal society, we have to think about these fundamental questions. Which areas of our life do we want privatized and which do we want to keep public? What is okay for companies to own and what is off limits? Earth’s population is estimated to hit 7 billion people this year. How do we feed all of these people if not through genetically engineered crops? The answer is probably that genetically altered crops will more or less be necessary, especially if the Earth’s population keeps growing. People have been breeding crops for certain traits since agriculture first started. Whether we want all of the world’s farmers beholden to a single corporation, however, is probably an easier question to answer.

Follow the Utopianist on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo: Kevin Lallier, Flickr, CC

About Keith Wagstaff

Keith Wagstaff is a journalist living in New York City. He received his degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and his work has appeared in such publications as The Village Voice, Newsday, The Huffington Post, Kilimanjaro Arts Journal, The L Magazine and others.

74 thoughts on “Monsanto Now Owns 90 Percent of the World’s Transgenic Crops

    1. A well known quote from George Santayana(who has a much longer Spanish name): Those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.
      *As an Irish American, I am painfully aware of The Great Potato Famine of 1845-1861 when for 6yrs. In a, row Ireland’s main crop of Lumpur potatoes failed due to a blight caused by mold in the water. 1 million immigrated and 1 million died. The death toll was caused by the famine and the dependence on an occupying country that exported tons of food from Ireland during the food crisis.
      * There are 4, 000 varieties of potatoes, 3,800 alone come from Peru which is where the Lumper originated. Some of these varieties are resistant or not effected by the type of mold that caused the Irish Famine.
      * If the Irish Farmers had had the ability to diversify their potato crops, it would have saved countless lives!
      This is only one example. All living things need diverse genes to thrive. Our mainstreaming crops to become more uniform in yield, appearance, and flavor is a death sentence to the world’s population.

  1. The Million Mask March started off as a single protest in Washington D.C. in 2013. It has since grown in to what has been dubbed the largest mass protest in human history with over 500 simultaneous protest around the world. Also with countless nation and world wide street actions on a weekly and monthly basis including such things as clothing drives, street protests, feeding the homeless and in some cases traveling to help those in times of need.

  2. These units tend to be represented fairly heavily in this area of armed forces clothing, and also combined they’re able to also offer the particular
    greatest assortment in terms of the best way you’re going to look, because
    they work with a large number of shades in their apparel altogether,
    and you could very easily combine clothes out of different military units to make
    your own design and style that sets apart you from everyone
    else and looks the way you want it to Also, salary certification is not needed for a salaried person to produce while taking over an immediately medium involving exchange enable

  3. 71438 928102Greatest fighter toasts ought to entertain and supply prize on your couples. Initially audio system next to obnoxious crowd would be wise to realize 1 specific gold colored strategy as to public speaking, which is individual interests self. finest man jokes 698172

  4. das Requisit wird erhalten, welche jenes

  5. If we want to preserve our outdated spending habits, it will
    have side effects to our funding and to the productive time Gps navigation devices are getting to be increasingly innocent in our lifestyle, and with them, potential invasions associated with privacy that numerous individuals aren’t too
    eager to put program

  6. Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much lately it?s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

  7. Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I?m new to the blog world but I?m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and may come back at some point. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great writing, have a nice evening!

  9. 746384 481997just couldnt leave your web site before suggesting that I really loved the standard information a person provide for your visitors? Is gonna be again ceaselessly to check up on new posts 670583

  10. 555296 161384I discovered your blog website on google and check a couple of of your early posts. Continue to keep up the extremely great operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading much more from you later on! 580891

  11. Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin

  12. 91470 798925Hey there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to take a look. Im definitely enjoying the information. Im bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and outstanding style and design. 726218

  13. 609816 564836Hey man, .This was an outstanding page for such a hard subject to talk about. I look forward to reading numerous much more fantastic posts like these. Thanks 692205

  14. 236232 654296Immer etliche Firmen bentzen heutzutage Interimmanagement als innovatives und ergnzendes Gertschaft i. Spanne der Unternehmensfhrung. Denn hiermit wird Kenntnisstand leistungsfhig, bedarfsgerecht und schnell ins Unternehmen geholt. 395538

  15. 30213 748736In case you are interested in picture a alter in distinct llife, starting up normally the Los angeles Surgical procedures fat reduction method is actually a large movement as a way to accomplishing which normally notion. shed belly fat 556508

  16. 607395 715441Get started with wales ahead almost every planking. Ones wales truly are a compilation of huge planks 1 specific depth advisors undoubtedly may be the identical towards the entire hull planking nonetheless with even bigger density to successfully thrust outward beyond the planking. planking 711125

  17. 63613 28068A person necessarily lend a hand to make severely posts Id state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the analysis you made to make this particular submit extraordinary. Magnificent process! 163565

  18. Iii/most or even them all need to be coupled with another way to assist in getting effective acne scarring removal.example
    punch strategy must be implemented with laser ablation.

  19. Med to-veis trådløse PIR kamera installert i kundens lokaler oppnår
    man en kombinasjon av deteksjon og lagring med videobilder og klipp som sendes til brukere
    når en hendelse inntreffer.

  20. Rabat i forbindelse med alarm beregnes af indbodækningens pris uden ansvars- eller tillvalgsdækninger og er
    gældende for indbosummer op til 3 millioner kr. Du kan opnå rabat
    på din indbodækning, hvis du har: Tyverialarm medd mzgnetkontakt på indgangsdør.

  21. Du skal også huske, at et alarmsystem uden abonnement betyder, at du selv skal stå for vedligeholdelse og test af
    husalarmen, samt udskiftning af batterier.

  22. Somebody necessarily help to make critically posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this actual submit extraordinary. Magnificent job!

  23. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am going through issues with your RSS.
    I don’t know why I cannot join it. Is there anyone
    else having the same RSS issues? Anyone that knows the answer will you
    kindly respond? Thanx!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *