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Monsanto versus the World: Will Biotechnology Win?

Monsanto versus the World: Will Biotechnology Win?

Until several years ago, Monsanto was a chemicals company with operations around the world. However, its former CEO, Robert Shapiro had visions of a brave new world where science, specifically agricultural biotechnology, would once again prove Malthus wrong. (Malthus, writing around the time of the industrial revolution in England, warned of impending environmental disaster and famine. He argued that the population was increasing geometrically, but that food was increasing arithmetically.) Therefore, in 1997, Monsanto spun off its chemicals business as Solutia, to concentrate on the life sciences. In 2000, Monsanto became a wholly owned subsidiary of Pharmacia. Shortly after that, consumer apprehension over the so-called "Frankenfoods" prompted Pharmacia to re-launch Monsanto as a public company.

Today, Monsanto continues its quest to become the world's leader in the new industry called life sciences. The driving force is biotechnology. This allows scientists to alter the genetic makeup of plants and animals, with the desired outcome being a "better" product. Generally, "better" is defined in terms of either increased yield or greater resistance to disease or insects.

Biotechnology enhanced products currently marketed by Monsanto include the following: (source: Monsanto: Biotechnology: Promise for a Brighter Future).

Insect-protected cotton with the Bollgard® gene protects itself against cotton bollworms, pink bollworms and tobacco budworms. As a result, cotton growers can use significantly less chemical insecticides over their fields.
NewLeaf® insect-protected potatoes offer protection against the Colorado potato beetle, the most damaging insect pest to potato crops.
YieldGard® insect-protected corn protects itself against the European corn borer and related insect pests such as the Southwestern corn borer.
Soybeans, cotton, corn, and canola with the Roundup Ready® gene are genetically improved to tolerate Roundup® herbicide. These technologies make it possible for growers to use Roundup in place of other herbicides that may be less effective or less desirable. Roundup herbicide can reduce the number of weed treatments and can also help reduce tillage to conserve soil moisture and reduce erosion of valuable topsoil.
Posilac® bovine somatotropin helps dairy cows produce milk more efficiently, without any loss in quality or natural wholesomeness.
A product which Monsanto ultimately agreed not to market because of the furor that it created was the so-called terminator seed. The terminator seed utilized a genetic technique that rendered farm-saved seed sterile. If commercially used, the seed-sterilizing technology would prevent farmers from saving seed from their harvest to use in following years. This would force farmers to return to the commercial seed market every year.

Many agree that biotechnology truly is the wave of the future. However, the legal quagmire that Monsanto found itself in threatened the very survival of the company. Monsanto's arrogant and seemingly reckless response to consumer concerns over genetically altered food products opened a Pandora's box. The focus of the debate shifted from "feeding the world" to "poisoning the world with Frankenfood". Environmental groups, politicians and governments all entered the debate.

To see what happened go here for Part 1 http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/monprob.html , and here for part 2 http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/monprob2.html .

*****Special instructions: It needs to be a short essay Between 300 to 450 words with at least one reference.

HERE IS THE QUESTION: If you were part of Monsanto's senior management, what would be your long-term strategy for the company?

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Consider the Monsanto's disasters below. Any offering from Monsanto, however salubrious will be looked at by every one with suspicion.
· The massive marketplace failure of Monsanto's billion dollar flagship product, rBGH. After three years on the marketplace, only 4% of America's dairy cows are being shot up with the drug. Wall Street analysts told Business Week magazine in 1996 that due to farmer and consumer opposition (and the fact that rBGH damages the health of cows) the drug was a total failure, and that in economic terms it should be taken off the market. In scientific and public health terms data continues to pile up that significantly increased levels of the human growth hormone factor, IGF-1, in genetically engineered milk and dairy products constitute a serious human health risk for increased breast and colon cancer. In addition scientific studies have recently been brought to the attention of the World Health Organization that injecting mammals with genetically engineered growth hormones very likely increases their susceptibility to deadly, incurable brain-wasting diseases such as BSE, commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, or its human variant, CJD. Consequently the WHO, the European Union, and the Codex Alimentarius are unlikely to ever approve rBGH as a safe drug, leaving the U.S. as the only industrialized nation in the world to have approved rBGH.

· In mid-1996 Monsanto/Calgene's highly-touted "Flavr Savr" tomato was taken off the market, ostensibly because of production failures and genetic glitches. Earlier the DNAP corporation's gene-altered "Endless Summer" tomato didn't even make it through its test marketing phase.

· Initial seed crops of Monsanto's Bt-spliced "NatureGuard" potatoes in 1996 suffered from severe plant virus damage.

· Monsanto's entire Canadian genetically engineered rapeseed or canola crop had to be recalled earlier this year because of unexplained "technical difficulties."

· Up to a million acres or 50% of Monsanto's Bt Cotton crop in the U.S. were attacked by bollworms in 1996, prompting lawsuits by outraged cotton growers who claim they were defrauded by Monsanto.

· Mississippi cotton farmers are preparing to sue Monsanto for damages arising from cotton boll damage or deformities in the 1997 "Roundup Ready" cotton harvest.

· Field tests in Europe have shown that genetically engineered rapeseed plants are causing "biological pollution" and spreading their mutant DNA characteristics to neighboring plants. Other tests have shown that gene-spliced crops are harming or killing beneficial insects and pollinators such as Ladybugs (Ladybirds) and honey bees, and that pests are rapidly developing resistance ...

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"Although the early delays and costs involved in international salesing may seem difficult to justify when compared to your established domestic trade, Monsanto's senior management should take a..."

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