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Monsanto Wins One but May Lose Everything

Monsanto Wins One but May Lose Everything
The Monsanto logo is seen at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. (Seth Perlman/AP)

By Wednesday, 20 July 2016 06:30 AM Current | Bio | Archive

History holds many examples of empires winning major battles but still losing the larger war. Farm chemical leader Monsanto (MON) may be the next one.

To see why, consider two important events in the last month.

First, President Obama signed into law a bill setting national labeling standards foods made with GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredients. Favored by GMO king Monsanto and the factory food industry, the law supersedes state-level labeling requirements.

(Why did the Republican-controlled Congress, which in other circumstances insists Washington defer to the states, work with Obama to override legislators in those same states? Good question. I don’t know.)

Consumer groups protested vigorously but to no avail. Their point: Whether GMO ingredients are harmful or not, people have a right to know what’s inside their food.

The new law will give that disclosure – but not on the label. You will have to scan a squiggly “QR” code into your smart phone to find it. The millions of Americans who don’t have smart phones, or don’t know how to scan the code? They’ll stay in the dark.

So, score one for Monsanto and its allies. GMO substances will stay in our food. The public will remain unaware. Yet Monsanto may have won that battle while losing the war.

This brings us to event #2.

Mark Skousen’s big Freedom Fest conference in Las Vegas last week featured a “Pitch Tank” competition, arranged by Angel Investors Network.

Twenty entrepreneurs competed for a chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. The winner received $140,000 in cash and business services.

I watched the five finalists make their pitches. All had great ideas and excellent business prospects in my opinion. Despite our struggling economy, these were talented, determined entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds.

The winner was Mississippi-based Sumagrow – a small company that could well become Monsanto’s worst nightmare.

Sumagrow’s microbial product reduces or even eliminates the need for conventional fertilizers and other chemicals. Farmers can use less water (a big problem in California) and it contains no GMO substances.

Farmers using Sumagrow report higher crop yields and lower input costs. That means less money goes to chemical companies like Monsanto and more money stays with farmers.

That being the case, why doesn’t Monsanto just buy Sumagrow and take it off the market?

They may well try… but they’ll have competition.

One of the Pitch Tank judges was John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market (WFM). Mackey said he was impressed and wanted to verify that Sumagrow works as claimed.

Mackey is a stickler for quality. He will test Sumagrow thoroughly. If he finds the product worthwhile, farmers supplying Whole Foods will adopt it quickly.

But Mackey’s closing note was even more important.

“Please, please, please,” he said. “Don’t sell out to Monsanto.”

John Mackey wants Sumagrow to stay independent. Combine his interest and the product’s advantages, and Monsanto may have met its match.

Patrick Watson is an Austin-based financial writer. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickW

To read more of his insights, CLICK HERE NOW.

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History holds many examples of empires winning major battles but still losing the larger war. Farm chemical leader Monsanto (MON) may be the next one.
monsanto, win, lose, farm
Wednesday, 20 July 2016 06:30 AM
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