No, These Food Companies Are Not Owned by Monsanto

A meme that's recently enjoying some frequent sharing through social media like Facebook lists well-known consumer brands and companies, stating they are "owned" by genetically modified seeds giant Monsanto (NYSE: MON  )  and therefore, anyone who doesn't want to consume GMO foods should avoid them. Actually, though, it's not really accurate.

In many cases, some of the listed companies' brands do indirectly rely on Monsanto (and other companies that make genetically modified agricultural products) for ingredients. Are these brands or companies owned by Monsanto? No: That part's hogwash.

Here's the skinny on Monsanto and the grocery list.

Digging deeper into that anti-grocery list
The way Monsanto indirectly sneaks into Americans' grocery carts is simply that it genetically modifies seeds for common crops. So do other companies like DuPont, but they receive far less public scrutiny than Monsanto.

There are different variations of the anti-Monsanto social meme floating around, claiming that companies and brands like Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) , Coca-Cola, and other household names are owned by Monsanto.

This is completely untrue. Those of us who are investors know that consumer giants like these are in fact public companies, owned by shareholders and certainly not Monsanto.

One list making the rounds has some pretty overt mistakes even beyond the ownership claim.

For example, list member "Kraft/Philip Morris" no longer exists. Those two were once a giant conglomerate, and they parted ways about six years ago. More recently, Kraft split up, with Mondelez keeping the high-growth snack sector (including brands like Cadbury and Nabisco) while spinning off Kraft grocery brands, such as the iconic Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Some outrageous typos also tipped off a list lacking much thought or fact-checking. "Minute Made," "Cool-aid," and "Sweppes" aren't exactly on shopping lists in the first place, because technically, those aren't the products' names.

The spirit of the list can't be denied, though, and it's the reason the meme gets circulated: Many consumers simply aren't armed with the information they desire, and labels and marketing claims can be confusing. For example, brands like Kashi, Bear Naked, and Gardenburger are all owned by Kellogg (NYSE: K  ) ; products like these that say they are "natural" aren't necessarily organic. So if you're avoiding GMOs, beware.

The straight dope on GMOs in your food
The majority of American processed food likely contains GM ingredients from crops grown with engineered seeds. That's because just about all conventional U.S. corn and soybeans now have foreign genes. These genes allow soybeans to resist a common herbicide, and engineer corn to produce its own insecticide.

A massive number of American products utilize corn or soy as crucial ingredients. Anyone who pays attention to high-fructose corn syrup has probably noticed how frequently that ingredient substitutes for cane sugar, for example. Consumers' best way to avoid such foods is to buy organic, which by definition excludes genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM  ) is a safe place for GMO skeptics to shop, since so many of its products are in fact organic, and many of its suppliers have voluntarily certified and clearly labeled their products as GMO-free. In fact, Whole Foods recently announced that it will require all of its suppliers to label products containing GMOs by 2018.

This is a huge victory for all those who have fought in favor of labeling campaigns, even if they'd prefer political action. Voluntary actions in the marketplace are a healthier, more forward-thinking way to go, and you'd better believe Whole Foods is in a better investing position because of it. For many, there's a real market need for information and peace of mind with minimal hard-core research.

Losing a battle, winning the war
Some of the companies on the list did in fact financially band with Monsanto to try to defeat California Proposition 37 in November, which would have required GMO labeling. Companies including Monsanto kicked in somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million to defeat the proposition.

Despite the defeat, though, some huge companies like Wal-Mart and PepsiCo have reportedly met with lawmakers about labeling GMOs. In other words, rumor has it that companies have decided to do something about this, because more and more propositions are cropping up in other states. These companies have deep pockets, but not enough to utilize millions in shareholder money to try to defeat GMO labeling laws in state after state.

The FDA has long contended that genetic modification doesn't materially change the foods in question, but if that's the line the agency and other GMO proponents are selling, many people aren't buying it. They deserve transparency if they'd rather eat GMO-free.

The best defense
Ill-informed memes and incorrect viral phenomena do more harm than good for the issues at hand, as sharable and compelling as these items might seem. Taking online claims with a few grains of salt (and maybe even doing some Snopes.com debunking) helps protect consumers from misinformation.

The good news is that consumers do have access to more information than ever before. The bad news is that we need to subject it to a lot of critical thinking to make sure we even have the real facts. "Buyer, beware" still applies.

Hopefully the more people who shop according to their values, the more companies will choose transparency and meet consumer demands for heightened information. For now, we still have to do a lot of digging into public filings and other accurate sources. It's worth it, though: Being armed with correct information is the best defense.

It's hard to believe that a grocery store could book investors more than 30 times their initial investment, but that's just what Whole Foods has done for those who saw the organic trend coming some 20 years ago. However, it may not be too late to participate in the long-term growth of this organic foods powerhouse. In our premium report on the company, we walk through the key must-know items for every Whole Foods investor, including the main opportunities and threats facing the company. So make sure to claim your copy today by clicking here.


Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (24)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2013, at 5:57 PM, ajkmsteph2 wrote:

    Monsanto doesn't own any food compnaies correct?

  • Report this Comment On April 10, 2013, at 5:59 PM, ajkmsteph2 wrote:

    Monsanto stock went up 700% in 10 years that kind of beats the market right and if everyone bought organic we wouldn't have enough organic food to go around since yields are lower and the product more expensive but mainly if you didn't use GM and non-organic you would have little meat for people.

  • Report this Comment On April 11, 2013, at 3:53 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Well! What Monsanto produces is not food.. something which is like food!! Period. The simple fact GMOs are not good.. Accept it or not accept it.. the fact remains the same.

  • Report this Comment On April 11, 2013, at 3:55 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Brilliant!! Take a look at this 11 year old kid talking on what is wrong with our food system.. Hope common sense prevails..

    Birke Baehr: What's wrong with our food system

    http://www.ted.com/talks/birke_baehr_what_s_wrong_with_our_f...

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2013, at 5:44 PM, tomd728 wrote:

    "Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story."

    The social media explosion is a good thing that should come with a warning.Then again one has to be able to read which is a glaring shortcoming in our youth.....the worst of it is: "Hey...it's on the internet."

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:25 PM, cellofool100 wrote:

    Monsanto=Evil. Grow your own if possible.

  • Report this Comment On May 22, 2013, at 1:45 PM, RoxiiLove wrote:

    MONSANTO is going through hell because they're profiting off of our ignorance. They own BlackWater. isn't it funny ouw the Texas Fertilizer plant filed a lawsuit against MONSANTO then blew up recently?? HMM..

    THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS POST IS CERTAINLY AN INSIDER FOR MONSANTO. THEY'RE UNDER ATTACK AND WE ARE COMING FOR YOU F*CKERS.

  • Report this Comment On May 29, 2013, at 5:45 AM, ssutherland314 wrote:

    Re: list of companies owned by Monsanto (or not): For those of us out here concerned about eating food that will support life - instead of kill it - we don't care whether Monsanto owns those companies or not, we care whether their ingredients are NON-GMO or not. Apparently they're not. So, we will simply register our protest by buying organic. That will work. Which means we don't buy ANY of the products of the companies on that list.

    And that's the way the cookie crumbles...

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 4:37 PM, pharmakeus wrote:

    I am going to strike against Monsanto. Our demand is that GMO foods be labelled as such. That's all. We will refuse to work on Friday 7th June. Please spread the agenda and join me in this global action.

    Our demands are simple and reasonable. We demand that GMO foods be labelled as such. That is all we are demanding. This is demand is wholly consistent with principles of justice, equality before the law, accountability, the free market and fair trade. We have a right to know what we are eating. Farmers who grow organic crops have a right to compete in a fair way with this evil corporate giant bent on monopolizing the world's food supply.

    GMO foods might or might not be deleterious to health. The overuse of "Round Up" herbicide might or might not have serious side effects. We are not striking over that.

    GMO foods will almost certainly lead to the extinction of traditional food species (thousands of years to domesticate, and gone in a few years, just as in the so-called "Green Revolution of the 1970s); it will almost certainly destroy local farmers (it already is!) and it will lead to overpopulation, natural devastation and extinctions. But we are not striking over that.

    GMO foods cross pollinate with local species, destroying those strains. Round Up might or might not be pushing the bees to extinction (which will be a disaster beyond all reckoning) or sending the frogs extinct. An ecological disaster might or might not be plausible. But we are not striking over that.

    We are striking because Monsanto has government so wrapped around it's little finger that we are denied the basic right to know what we are buying and feeding our children.

    GMO foods are NOT the answer to the world's problems. The answer is Sustainable Development. High-yeild GMO foods destroy local farming, undermine the autonomy of national and regional economies and force the world to become dependent on multinational corporations.

    Monsanto intends nothing less then totalitarian control of the human food chain. If we do not stop them now, future generations will surely curse us for the cowards we would be.

    For fifteen years or more, farmers have planted seed corn. With Monsanto crops, you need to buy the seed every year. This is an obscene offense against the very foundations of civilisation.

    But we are not striking against any of this.

    Just label the products as you ought to in accord with principles of transparency, accountability and free trade.

    -- Dr. Chris McMahon

  • Report this Comment On June 07, 2013, at 2:37 AM, CastleFreak wrote:

    As far as I know, these lists were never about ownership. They are about contamination. Companies using the crops & seeds of "terminator-seed" Monsanto.

    Monsanto, of which we know by now how they have become a legal maffia. Monsanto, the producer of Agent Orange, DDT and PCB, who now contaminates around 70% of your food supply (USA only, lucky me, in Europe)...

  • Report this Comment On June 11, 2013, at 5:44 PM, Justagirl2 wrote:

    Please know that "Organic" does not mean NonGMO. I was just looking at a Kashi product today which had an organic label which also states that Kashi is committed to making 50% of their products "NonGMO" by the year 2015. They have a NonGMO project verified label on the front of the box. I'm not sure what that means.

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 6:55 PM, brokeazzbroad wrote:

    Whole Foods sucks a little less than MalWart. Their blind eye at BPA lined cans, GMO soy and corn, etc., is only sllightly mitigated by a larger variety of organic veggies and a nod at pastured meats. One year ago, 95+% of my food dollar was spent at companies that are publicly traded. Now less than 25% of it is. I'm just one person, but the tide is turning. Some people are tired of being sold garbage and being told it's food.

    As to investing, yeah, you can invest in companies that profit by providing crap for consumers' hard earned dollars. You can even make money doing it. But if I'm going to invest in thieves, I'd like them to be brave enough to admit they're thieves. Monsanto, McD, and Walmart are the worst of the worst. I wouldn't touch any of them with a 10 foot pole. Superstitiously, I'd be afraid that I might come back as pink slime or tofu in my next life.

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