The Fall of Monsanto?

Between dramatically falling stocks and genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds that don't grow as effectively as they did in the past, Monsanto is not having the best year, The New York Times reports. The agribusiness company has dominated corn and soybean crops for decades with its modified seeds, but rival companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred have begun offering similar products with less hassle and fewer—but more desirable—added traits. The company's use of technology and what some call its bullying behavior have also inspired backlash from the organic and sustainable food movements, with a less-than-flattering portrayal in the documentary Food, Inc. and elsewhere. As these problems compound, we may be seeing an end to Monsanto's status as a food-world juggernaut:

The company's stock, which rose steadily over several years to peak at around $140 a share in mid-2008, closed Monday at $47.77, having fallen about 42 percent since the beginning of the year. Its earnings for the fiscal year that ended in August, which will be announced Wednesday, are expected to be well below projections made at the beginning of the year, and the company has abandoned its profit goal for 2012 as well.

The latest blow came last week, when early returns from this year's harvest showed that Monsanto's newest product, SmartStax corn, which contains eight inserted genes, was providing yields no higher than the company's less expensive corn, which contains only three foreign genes.

Monsanto has already been forced to sharply cut prices on SmartStax and on its newest soybean seeds, called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, as sales fell below projections.

But there is more. Sales of Monsanto's Roundup, the widely used herbicide, has collapsed this year under an onslaught of low-priced generics made in China. Weeds are growing resistant to Roundup, dimming the future of the entire Roundup Ready crop franchise. And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

Presented by

John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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