Monsanto is a very divisive company. Some think that they’re evil incarnate, threatening to enslave the world to only eating their food. Others still praise the conglomerate’s use of technology to attempt to increase food production across the world. Many people have heard of Monsanto, but not everyone knows their story.
Monsanto started as a chemical manufacturer, famous for developing saccharine, Agent Orange, and RoundUp. Over the years, they started developing and patenting GM-based seeds, after a US Supreme Court ruling in 1980. The company is well-aware of the public outcry surrounding its genetically-modified products, and does what it can to mitigate it. They suggest that farmers have a right to choose what kind of seeds they want to plant, and that laws precluding GMO-based crops are keeping said farmers from exercising that freedom. They also suggest that in light of the soon-coming food crisis that GM crops have incredible benefits in the future. The company has also been aggressive in its purchases of other seed companies, allowing it to widen its net on the agricultural market. Monsanto’s share of GM cord and soybeans is about 65%. These acquisitions have drawn the eye of antitrust regulators, but so far they haven’t had to make but a few concessions to them.
A large part of Monsanto’s profits come from the licensing of these seeds. This almost essentially creates a monopoly, but according to the article, does not truly constitute one, as even some of Monsanto’s competitors are actually licensees. And their business model requires farmers to buy fresh seed every year. Their “Violator Exclusion Policy” will actually deny farmers access to Monsanto’s seed and technology forever if they break any of the terms of the license agreement.
Monsanto is working hard to spin its business decisions into something positive. Or at least something that looks positive. They are attempting to make sure that the developing world still as access to its seed, but are still doubling down on increased productivity at whatever the cost. Maybe it’s because this technology is so relatively new, Monsanto’s quasi-monopoly, or that people don’t like companies all up in their food supply, but they still seem to have a long way to go.