GMO Protests Aren't Enough to Slow Monsanto Down

Are the anti-GMO protests really going anywhere? Activist voices against genetically modified organisms might have pitched louder in recent months, but farmers don't seem to be paying much heed.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest data, genetically modified seeds comprised a whopping 90% of the total corn acreage planted this year. That's up 2 percentage points from last year. Furthermore, seed varieties that were both pest- and herbicide-resistant covered 71% of the acreage, a significant jump from 52% covered last year.

Monsanto's genetically modified seeds at work. Image source: Company website

If anyone's making money hand over fist, it's the companies that are behind the altered seeds. Monsanto's (NYSE: MON  ) latest quarterly report is proof.

Despite relatively cool weather and the resultant delayed start to the planting season this year, Monsanto sold as many corn seeds in its last quarter as it had a year ago, when planting got off to a flying start. Its third-quarter corn seed and traits sales were flat at $1.5 billion year over year, suggesting solid demand for its products. Encouraged, Monsanto is even aiming for record corn volumes for the full year.

Watch out for DuPont (NYSE: DD  ) and Syngenta (NYSE: SYT  ) , which will release quarterly numbers later this month. DuPont recently lowered its second-quarter earnings guidance, but that's because of the delayed planting and has nothing to do with GMOs. In fact, its engineered seeds are selling well, as evidenced by the 14% year-over-year jump in its first-quarter sales from the agriculture business. If the companies report good seed sales in their upcoming results, it might as well confirm the growth of the GMO story. 

Yet when it comes to controversial issues such as GMOs, there's much more to it than a couple of quarterly numbers. The greater percentage of genetically modified seeds planted in the U.S. this year could give the seed companies a compelling reason to increase research and development spending on biotechnology, thereby boosting the GMO business substantially, especially since the USDA seems more than happy to help. There were several cases in recent months in which the government favored Monsanto. Earlier this year, the USDA also approved Syngenta's corn trait, Agrisure Duracade, which is the company's fourth corn trait in six years and should hit the markets next year.

But the bigger news is that it's not just the U.S. where genetically engineered seeds are harvesting a success story. Nor is it restricted to corn. In what could change the dynamics of farming in Brazil, China has agreed to import three new GE soybean varieties from the nation. China alone imports nearly 70% of the soybeans grown in Brazil.

Agriculture-specialist consulting company Celeres projected (link opens a PDF) the area covered by GM crops in Brazil to increase 14% in the crop year 2012-2013, with soybeans taking the lead in adopting the technology. Nearly 89% of the total planted soybean area is expected to belong to the GM category. With the most populous country favoring GM crops, Brazilian farmers might be inclined to buy more of the altered seeds. Meanwhile, Monsanto and the rest can easily laugh all the anti-GMO chatter off.

Monsanto is obviously one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Chinese approval. The company was waiting to launch its pest-and-herbicide resistant Intacta RR2 Pro soybean trait. With the approval secured, Monsanto has already set an ambitious initial target of 3 million acres for the product this year. The peak soybean planting in Brazil begins in October, so Monsanto has enough time to promote and distribute Intacta. That's not all. Through Monsanto, other companies can get dip their hands into the opportunity as well.

As a licensee of Monsanto, Syngenta can directly benefit as Monsanto spreads its wings in Brazil. DuPont is already targeting 30% higher soybean capacity in Brazil this year. With the company having settled long- pending lawsuits over patents with Monsanto recently, DuPont's foray into GMOs and Latin American markets could only get bigger. Monsanto has agreed to  license its next-generation soybean traits to DuPont in return for royalty payments. Though the agreement caters to the U.S. and Canadian markets, it could just be the beginning.

Another company likely to jump into the GMO race even more aggressively following the latest USDA data and China's move is Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) . The diversified company that gets 11% of sales from agricultural sciences recently got a big boost when it struck a deal with Monsanto to cross-license insect and herbicide-resistant corn product technology. Dow has already made huge headway in Argentina last year by launching the first-ever five-trait corn, Powercore. As for soybeans, winning Canada's approval for its herbicide-tolerant soybean, Enlist E3, last month counts among Dow's major achievements.

With each passing day, the tailwinds for the GM crop business appear to be getting stronger, even as the march against Monsanto, and others, gathers steam. Whether the health-conscious like it or not, China's nod for Brazilian imports will inevitably cause GMOs to infiltrate more and more homes, even those that still haven't tasted the controversy. For Monsanto investors, it's great news, but not so much for those who disagree with the company's practices.

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Read/Post Comments (24) | Recommend This Article (10)

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 July 07, 2013, at 9:59 AM, MsAbby wrote:

    I think I should have the right to know what they are doing to my food and what the outcome of genetically altering our food supply will be.

    Farmers in Oregon are now stuck with tons of wheat because of Montsano's irresponsible testing in fields throughout Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

    Besides, once modified you cannot save the seed to plant next year so they are effectively cutting us off from growing our own food supply.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 10:21 AM, CharlieTX wrote:

    Guess the Ethanol plants don't care whether their corn is GMO or not. But as for us people, there is a reason that the Organic portion of the food market is by far and away the fastest growing sector. We've switched over to organic, found that the total grocery bill stayed the same, the food tastes way better and several health issues just went away (and that part is scary).

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 10:23 AM, MightbePoison wrote:

    55 countries around the world and growing might know something we dont. That Monsanto is poisoning the consumer and the planet. One cant even produce their own seed, you cant get anymore evil than that. I hope all these stockholders and farmers can afford their own cancer treatment, all the money in the world may not provide good health after the damage

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 10:32 AM, hiebelh wrote:

    The main problem is the GMO corporations have all the seeds the farmer needs to plant the next years crops. They can not get enough regular seeds to plant. The large corporate farms do not care what they plant as long as our agriculture department is run by ex Monsanto people and they can get their subsidy's.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 11:01 AM, unraveled wrote:

    Why would farmers care about GMO's? They typically don't care about anything until it affects their bottom line, which usually comes in the form of government subsidies. I grew up on a farm in South Dakota, so I can attest to this.

    If the corporate giant wants to control everything, that's fine. People everywhere should boycott every grocery store and only shop at local farmer's markets and/or purchase organically grown food. It's the only way we'll be able to bring these beasts to their knees.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 11:32 AM, ArizonaFreedom9 wrote:

    One user commented: "I think I should have the right to know what they are putting into our foods". You don't have any rights anymore, everything is decided for you like a cow in the pasture. The only one that can eat healthy is you, support your local farmer, eat only non GMO foods even if it does not have a lot of choices. The rest of the herd will keep eating Obama's and Monsanto's cancer causing poisoned cow feed. Sad America is so self absorbed as it's being converted to a Social Society.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 12:20 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    It's strange that none of the GMO protests are lodged against DuPont, and yet DuPont's higher tech seeds are largely mortgaged to Monsanto which supplies DuPont Pioneer Monsanto's superior GM traits in return for license fees amounting to hundreds of $millions yearly.

    Also strange is the phenomenon of smear artists over the internet openly disclosing, proudly avowing they work for DuPont as DuPont AG employees proceeding to defame and smear Monsanto's business and Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds!

    What sort of dirty play is going on to trash Monsanto and its superior products? ...funfun..

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 12:32 PM, Dq1Ai2013 wrote:

    Hiding things in language-

    Organic

    Organism

    Organ

    In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system (such as animal, fungus, micro-organism, or plant). In at least some form, all types of organisms are capable of responding to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole.

    An organism may be either unicellular (a single cell) or, as in the case of humans, comprise many trillions of cells grouped into specialized tissues and organs. The term multicellular (many cells) describes any organism made up of more than one cell.

    All organisms living on Earth are divided into the eukaryotes and prokaryotes based on the presence or absence of true nuclei in their cells. The prokaryotes represent two separate domains, the Bacteria and Archaea. Eukaryotic organisms are characterized by the presence of a membrane-bound cell nucleus, and contain additional membrane-bound compartmentalization called organelles (such as mitochondria in animals and plastids in plants, both generally considered to be derived from endosymbiotic bacteria).[1] Fungi, animals and plants are examples of kingdoms of organisms that are eukaryotes.

    Would you believe me if I was to tell you its all a SYSTEM.

    1. Curb population growth

    2. Keep the Pharma giants and medical community funded

    3. $...there is a reason the dollar sign looks like a snake climbing up a pole.

    No mystery what is happening here.

    You can joke about tinfoil hats, conspiracy theories, etc etc. It doesn't change the truth nor does it hide the truth.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 12:35 PM, Dq1Ai2013 wrote:

    Rather than rounding you up with a Holocaust model as in Nazi Germany that alerts everyone to danger...its a quiet soft kill holocaust that will also yield maximum profit for a few that actually call the shots.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 1:00 PM, GeorgePolitico wrote:

    The push for mandatory labeling of GMOs seems to be an attempt to borrow anxiety from an unrelated source, the tobacco industry. We already have the "organic" label which guarantees that food was not genetically engineered, radiation-sterilized, or exposed to pesticides. Why do we need another label? Is there really a big constituency that does not want genetic engineering but DOES want pesticide residues?

    The campaign against GMOs has so far consisted mostly of attempts to borrow anxiety from other inventions that were once new and proved dangerous, such as asbestos, Agent Orange, and even the lead in Roman plumbing. This seems like more of the same.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 1:25 PM, Baloo789 wrote:

    The saddest part Neha is, the bizarre glee with which you wrote this article, and a very obvious ignorance of what GMOs, Monsanto, and the rest of the biotech industry involved in this are all about. I genuinely hope you will do you research, and one you actually know what you're talking about, write another piece that reflects the truth and the reality of current situation with genetically engineered crops. The fact that Monsanto is selling more seed this year shows NOTHING about what the GMO-Free movement across the world has in store. Again, if you did your research, you'd learn that the demise of GMOs is inevitable, and hope and pray that it ceases to exist much sooner than later. Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer, Dow, and Syngenta are doing business on borrowed time. Yes, it is only a matter of time until they don't just lose profits and dowsize - they will shut down. Please do your research

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 2:19 PM, Riggerwo wrote:

    When all the science is in and the medical problems are well documented..and the disastrous effects on the environment can not longer be explained away by fixed data and phony tests...Monsanto and the rest will be held to account...they will be sued like big tobacco and they will end up going out of business..Mark my words..this will happen...one day! In the mean time we all need to fight these companies and educate the consumers....

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 3:58 PM, jimp1066 wrote:

    No one seems to notice the bigger problem here, which is that these GMO crops are my definition genetically barren monocrops, unable to deal with new threats except by being further modified. We need continuing biodiversity if we are to continue to have reliable crops in the face of the never ending battle between pathogens and our food supply. Fact is, there are ways to raise crops without all the nastier pesticides and hebicides, using things like pyrethrins, insecticidal soap, limonene and rosemary oil. From personal experience I know that the organic pesticides are better than the manufactured products.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 6:26 PM, Pablocruse wrote:

    The little slack jawed knuckle dragging environazis aren't going to stop anything.

    They're way too stupid.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 6:31 PM, Pablocruse wrote:

    Ever since that daft liar Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, the nutjobs have come out of the woodwork. The enviro-freaks claim that only organic farming is sustainable. Yet if every farm were to go organic, we’d still have to cut down all the remaining forests to make room for more organic farms, and yet there would still be billions of people that would starve to death.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 6:37 PM, AmusedSpaceman wrote:

    I couldn't think of a worse, riskier investment than MON. Europe and Russia have rejected GMOs, African nations have started rejecting them and American legislation is moving ahead to label GMOs. MON is clearly losing the fight and the public hate for this company is epic. Who in their right mind would invest in "The World's Most Hated Company"? Lawsuits are stacking up. Not to mention there's the company's long, well documented history of deceit, destruction of human life and the environment. All it will take is one credible whistleblower to expose what they're doing and this stock is screwed. The market sees it as well as evidenced by the recent slide in the share price--the only thing keeping it up is a buyback from the company. As an investor I will avoid MON like the plague.

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 1:50 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Wait for few more months.. this stock of the "Most evil company in the world - as it is popularly known as" will crash!

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 1:51 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    If you are buying this stock, you putting your children and grandchildren's health in stake.

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 1:53 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Monsanto's Roundup is linked to following diseases in peer studies.. do you still want to "fool" yourself and invest int this stock!

    Autism

    Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis and Crohn's disease

    Obesity

    Allergies

    Cardiovascular disease

    Depression

    Cancer

    Infertility

    Alzheimer’s disease

    Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis

    ALS,

    and more

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 1:58 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    One think MON has +ve on their side is the #money and the #lobbying that they are doing in the govt. We all know about the revolving door between them and the govt/FDA et all! But the fight the people putting forward is getting bigger and bigger.

    Can you believe this fact:

    Food manufactured in the US and being exported to the countries like Australia are labelled for GMOs; the same (processosed) food circulated locally are not! Why BIOtech corporations like Monsanto (BTW though they are known as bio tech corporations, they are primarily chemical companies!) are lobby hard to make sure that the labelling of the GMOs does not become law.. Millions of dollars are being spent on this..

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 2:01 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Well said Baloo789 !! Hope Neha takes not of the opinion!

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 2:01 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    Well said Baloo789 !! Hope Neha takes note of the opinion!

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 2:07 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    In General Neha's articles get excited with Monsanto Prospects and GMO companies

    Sadly, when it comes to GMOs(Genetically Modified Organisms), the discussion should be be limited to investment forums. Why? the damage that is being done by these companies are not limited to human health. They extent to the ill effects on the whole planet.. the bees.. the butterflies.. the cattle.. the birds.. the micro organism.. pollination.. weather.. water.. the food chain. the list goes on and on and on

    http://beta.fool.com/nehams/2012/12/19/why-2013-could-be-a-b...

    http://beta.fool.com/nehams/2012/10/05/if-you-want-to-bet-bi...

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/06/29/monsanto-is-on-a-roll...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/06/25/is-monsanto...

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 2:11 AM, tempchennai wrote:

    You know what is biggest joke of the year? The so called "Nobel Food Prize" the sponsors of this prize include Monsanto as well, was awarded to a Monsanto exec! This should be made part of Ripleys believe it or not!

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