jueves, febrero 14, 2008

Business Week on super weeds


Report Raises Alarm over 'Superweeds'

Use of herbicides such as Monsanto's Roundup is on the rise. As weeds become resistant, environmental activists blame genetically modified crops


The boost in herbicide use is proving to be a financial boon for Monsanto. Its Roundup business was thought to be an albatross, as the pesticide came off patent in 2000 and revenue quickly plunged. Chief Executive Hugh Grant hastened the company's shift away from reliance on Roundup sales to an emphasis on GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds—in particular, commodity crops such as corn and soy, which are the grist for animal feed, food processing, and biofuels. As demand for agricultural commodities has soared in recent years, stoked by growing wealth and changing diets in developing nations, so too have the plantings of GMOs (BusinessWeek, 12/6/07).

But as more seeds with a baked-in resistance to Roundup are planted around the world, it's helping prop up sales of the herbicide. Some 80% of biotech seeds have herbicide-tolerance in them, and the vast majority of those tolerate Roundup specifically. In fact, on Feb. 12, Monsanto Executive Vice-President Brett Begemann told investors at a conference that the company would raise its 2008 earnings guidance, thanks in part to better-than-anticipated Roundup sales. In the company's first fiscal quarter, sales of Roundup and other chemicals jumped 47%. The company expects up to $1.4 billion in gross profit for the year from its chemicals business, Begemann said, which would be a 10% increase from 2007. (Monsanto forecasts $3.5 billion in gross profit from its seeds businesses, a 16% increase.)

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