Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo!
Q: I’ve heard that Monsanto Hawaii wants to put smaller farmers out of business. Is this true?
This is absolutely not the case and, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Monsanto Hawaii is 100% focused on agriculture and our mission is to help fellow farmers succeed through the use of innovative practices and tools that empower farms to produce more food, fiber and fuel, while at the same time conserving natural resources and operating more sustainably.
As an agriculture company, we believe we have a responsibility to work collaboratively with our fellow farmers to promote a strong and successful Hawaii ag industry. Some of our efforts to help other farmers throughout Hawaii include:
- The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation Ag Park at Kunia promotes sustainable local farming by making land and other resources available to small local farms growing a variety of produce and other crops. The Park was created through an innovative partnership between Monsanto Hawaii, Island Palms Communities and the Hawaiian Agricultural Foundation.
The GMO debate is considered one of the most controversial and confusing issues facing our state. Supporters say the technology behind genetically modified organisms is feeding the world at a time when the population keeps exploding and space to farm is getting scarcer. Opponents say it poses health and environmental risks – the full scope of which is unknown, because its application is too new.
A genetically modified organism is a living thing, like the corn grown on over 2,365 acres in Kunia by Monsanto, which has been altered to produce a desired trait.
"A good comparison is to an iPhone. The iPhone is like the basic corn – putting more genes in or making it GMO is like adding additional apps into that phone, into that corn. It makes it more valuable and a better tool for farmers to produce their crop," described Fred Perlak, Ph.D., Monsanto Hawai’i Research & Business Ops Vice President.
Perlak says GMO corn can be engineered to resist insects and herbicides and tolerate droughts.
"Ethanol production, high fructose corn syrup, feed for cattle, fed for pigs for chickens – all that comes from this particular kind of corn," explained Perlak.
According to experts, approximately 90% of all corn grown in North America is GMO – along with cotton, canola and soy.
The court unanimously rejected farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman’s argument that he was not violating Monsanto’s patent because the company’s pesticide-resistent “Roundup Ready” soybeans replicate themselves. Justice Elena Kagan said there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law.
“We think that blame-the-bean defense tough to credit,” Kagan wrote. “Bowman was not a passive observer of his soybeans’ multiplication; or put another way, the seeds he purchased (miraculous though they might be in other respects) did not spontaneously create eight successive soybean crops.”
She added: “Bowman devised and executed a novel way to harvest crops from Roundup Ready seeds without paying the usual premium.”
While the case was about soybeans, the broader issue of patent protection is important to makers of vaccines, software and other products. Corporations were worried about what might happen if the decision had gone the other way.
But, as the justices had indicated at oral arguments in the case, they believed Bowman’s practices threaten the incentive for invention that is at the heart of patent law.
If someone could copy Monsanto’s product, “a patent would plummet in value after the first sale of the first item containing the invention,” Kagan wrote. “And that would result in less incentive for innovation than Congress wanted.”
Last year marked a sixth consecutive year of dramatic growth for Hawaii seed crop producers, according to a recent government estimate, though the industry dominated by seed corn may be nearing maturity.
The Hawaii office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported the value of the local seed crop industry rose 26 percent to $223 million in 2009 from $177 million the year before.
The gain further ingrains seeds as Hawaii’s largest crop by value, a spot seeds have held since pineapple was dethroned in 2006, though other crops contribute more to the local food supply and commercial sales.
Industry observers expect the strong pace of expansion, which began five years ago after hovering around $50 million for several years before that, will begin to cool as the industry matures.
Last season’s big jump reflected expansion of operations by some producers after large land acquisitions in recent years that allowed the companies to build up research and farming, according to Fred Perlak, president of the industry’s trade group, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.
“I think what you’re seeing here is the maturing of the acquisitions in the last two or three years,” said Perlak, who is also vice president of research and business operations for Monsanto in Hawaii.
The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii-Manoa has received $20,000 from the Monsanto Fund.
The college says the money will support salaries and materials for “Gene-ius Day.” It’s a special program that introduces students in grades 4 through 12 to basic genetics and the function of DNA.
The founder and director of Gene-ius Day, Ania Wieczorek, is an associate specialist in the college’s Biotechnology, Biotechnology Outreach Program.
She says a primary goal of the program is to build a strong understanding of basic genetics at the elementary school level.
That way, teachers are able to present increasingly complex biotechnology topics in the upper grades.
Executives of Monsanto told skittish investors on Wednesday that earnings per share would grow 13 to 17 percent in the next fiscal year and that the company was on its way to fixing problems in its seed business that have undermined the confidence of Wall Street.
The remarks, in line with some previous assurances by company executives, were made as Monsanto reported that net income for the year that ended Aug. 31 had dropped by nearly half from a year earlier.
“I believe we’ve taken steps to allow our company to return to growth,” Hugh Grant, the chief executive, told analysts and investors Wednesday on a conference call.
He said the seed business was going to offer “more products at more price points” to help regain the trust of farmers who have been put off by high seed prices and lower-than-expected yields for some products, particularly Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn.
Company Continues to Leverage Strong Cash Position to Bring Value to Shareowners
ST. LOUIS, June 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Reaffirming its continuing effort to deliver value to shareowners, Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) announced today that its Board of Directors has approved a new three-year share repurchase program and declared a quarterly dividend.
Monsanto’s board authorized a new three-year share repurchase program, effective July 1, 2010, for up to $1 billion of the company’s common stock.
The Board of Directors also declared a quarterly dividend of 26.5 cents per share on its common stock. The dividend relates to the company’s third quarter of its 2010 fiscal year and is payable on July 30, 2010 to shareowners of record on July 9, 2010.
Monsanto executives have said the company is positioned for earnings growth in the mid-teen percentages beyond the current fiscal year. The company also has said it is working on a revitalized product strategy to bring more choices to farmer customers, offering them the premium opportunity the company’s products create.
By PAUL VOOSEN of Greenwire
Published: June 7, 2010
The Agriculture Department will approve for broad use tomorrow a genetically modified soybean engineered to contain healthier oils, the opening salvo in a biotech oil fight between DuPont Co. and its rival, Monsanto Co.
The high-oleic soybean, developed by DuPont and pending deregulation since 2006, is one of the first in a wave of bioengineered cash crops that are being altered for nutritional purposes. Currently, nearly all biotech crops grown in the United States have been altered for resistance to weedkiller or insects, traits that are rarely felt by consumers or commercial businesses.
The USDA deregulation is the "final step" in the approval process for Dupont’s soybean, which has already been approved in Canada and Mexico, said Bridget Anderson, a spokeswoman for Pioneer Hi-Bred, DuPont’s biotech seed business. The crop and its oil will continue commercial testing this year and should be ready for global use by 2012, she added.
The USDA approval is also the first play in a coming oil war between DuPont and Monsanto.
Currently, Monsanto has two varieties of biotech soybeans pending approval with USDA that also seek to modify the nutritional value of soybean oil, promising to eliminate trans fats and produce oil with omega-3 fatty acid — fish oil — for use in yogurt, granola bars and spreads.
The 360 day comparative price, line and histogram charts, page has been updated also. CLICK HERE to view.
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