Monsanto Takes a Tumble


Poor Monsanto Co.—the mighty manipulator of Mother Nature has tripped on its own hubris, falling far, fast, and hard.

The biotech and chemical giant has reaped huge profits by messing with the DNA of the world’s food supply. During the past couple of decades, Monsanto has become the Frankenstein of agriculture, taking genetic parts of one or more species and engineering them into another. The corporation creates a living profit center for itself inside the mutant seeds it engineers for corn, soybeans, and other staples. Its specialty has been altering plants to withstand heavy doses of an herbicide manufactured by – guess
who? – Monsanto.

This kind of techno-gimmickry dazzled Wall Street speculators for a while. Monsanto stock soared to $140 a share in 2008, and in 2009 it was named “company of the year” by Forbes magazine.

Farmers have found the altered seed ridiculously expensive and less beneficial than advertised, and the herbicide Monsanto sells with the seed isn’t effective because weeds have developed a resistance to it. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating the corporation’s antitrust activities, and global opponents of genetically tampered crops have been scoring victories in the fight to stop their spread.

Monsanto’s response has been to double down on wizardry. Its new corn seed, for example, has not one, but eight altered genes. Farmers aren’t buying the mumbo jumbo, and Wall Street has pushed Monsanto’s stock price down by two-thirds. As one market analyst now says, “This may be the worst stock of 2010.”
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