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That’s How Monsanto Makes Money

Posted on 08 April 2013 by Jerry

It takes teams of people to craft a viable strategy that gives a business success while no one is looking.  These include the best legal and legislative minds money can buy to make progress a word or a bill at a time.  Case in point is Monsanto.  The last couple of months show how Monsanto operates legislatively, corporately with other agricultural biotechnology behemoths, and globally to insure greater sales of genetically modified crops and herbicides.

Legislatively, Monsanto brought together its inside Congress man (Roy Blunt – U.S. Senator (R) from Missouri), its attorneys and strategists to craft a rider to benefit Monsanto that could be snuck into a bigger piece of legislation that would certainly pass.  It needed to be crafted in such a way as to not offend and yet compel the U.S. government to overrule the federal courts and act in accordance with Monsanto’s wishes.  It was written a word at a time to set precedents that would serve as the basis of future lobbying and political end-runs.

Such was what has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” that Barack Obama signed into law with his signature on House Resolution 933, which was a continuing resolution spending bill that Congress passed to give the government ongoing funding for its day-to-day operations.  The full text of the “Monsanto Protection Act” appears in article cited from The Guardian, below.  Of significance is selection of the phrase, “the secretary of agriculture shall”.  Shall is such a more pleasant word than Must even though its meaning is the same.

At the same time, it was announced that Monsanto and DuPont reached an agreement where they would stop their reciprocal lawsuits and DuPont would pay Monsanto royalties amounting to $1.75 billion over several years for access to Monsanto’s technology for genetically modified seeds.  After having lost one big case against Monsanto, DuPont saw great promise for its own seeds and herbicides using Monsanto’s technology to produce the next wave of herbicide resistant crops that will face a new wave of herbicide resistant weeds invading U. S. farms.

DuPont’s Pioneer brand agricultural seeds generated some $7.3 billion in sales in 2012.  Monsanto had total revenues of about $13.5 billion last year.  This is a sweet deal for these two leaders in the agricultural biotechnology space.

Separately, Monsanto reported its second quarter earnings for the beginning of 2013.  A Forbes article reporting Monsanto’s results cited net income for the quarter ending with February 2013 as $1.48 billion.  The article further cites Michael E. Cox of Piper Jaffrey as observing that higher sales of Roundup (Monsanto’s herbicide) and a lower-than-expected tax rate were responsible for the performance.  Oh look, herbicide sales are booming.  What a surprise!  Many have argued that Monsanto genetically modified seeds, which make plants impervious to Roundup, are really a way of allowing farmers to use Roundup indiscriminately to kill weeds since it will not hurt their GM crops.

Monsanto continues its full court press to spread use of its seeds around the world.  Even in its own sanitized press releases, Monsanto’s ambition is obvious.  This press release gives only hints of the complexity of its strategy, pervasiveness and costs it is incurring in just this one continent.  This is big international business at its most powerful and yet devious.  Its concentration on South American markets and Africa are where it expects it future profits to come from.  Blocked from many European Union countries and other developed nations in the world, developing nations are a key focus.  So far only the U.S. and Canada have completely embraced Monsanto and DuPont’s genetically modified crops.

The Guardian article cited below states that Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds make up 93% of U.S. soybeans, 88% of cotton and 86% of corn crops last year.  We do not have comparable data for Canada but are sure they closely follow the U.S. in GM crop percentages.

Chapter 13 of Beyond Animal, Ego and Time is completely focused on genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the inherent dangers they represent.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/05/who_snuck_in_the_monsanto_protection_act/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/26/statement-press-secretary-hr-933/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/04/monsanto-protection-act-gm/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2013-04-03/monsanto-raises-forecast-as-profit-tops-estimates-on-corn-seed.html

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/intacta-rr2-pro-benefits-for-south-american-countries.aspx

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Bonobos and Chimpanzees: How Close are our Closest Relatives?

Posted on 24 June 2012 by Jerry

It is difficult to be precise when comparing three different animal genomes, each with billions of base pairs, to assess similarity.  Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have however completed sequencing the DNA of a contemporary bonobo and have declared it the second great ape with which human beings share 99.6% of their DNA.  This mirrors an assessment in 2005 when researchers studied the chimpanzee genome.

This finishes sequencing of the genomes of the three most related of the great apes; the human being, chimpanzee, and the bonobo.  Their common genetic ancestry shows that human beings, chimpanzees and bonobos took separate evolutionary paths more than four million years ago, with chimpanzees and bonobos diverging from each other in a more recent timeframe of one to two million years.

What is intriguing about these findings is not the great similarity but rather the differences.  Researchers found that there is about 1.6% of human DNA that is shared with the bonobo that is not found in the chimpanzee.  Conversely, they found about the same proportion of human DNA that is shared with the chimpanzee that is not found in the bonobo. 

While chimpanzees are found throughout equatorial Africa, bonobos are only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The population of bonobos was thought to be isolated from chimpanzees with the formation of the Congo River which may have physically separated the two groups more than a million years ago.

There are some notable behavioral differences between the two species.  Male chimpanzees are territorial and dominant.  The males compete aggressively for rank dominance within the group, and sex. They cooperate to defend their territory and attack other groups.  Bonobo males, on the other hand, are subordinate to the females and do not compete aggressively for dominance rank.  In addition, they are playful and show almost continual sexual behavior including with same sex partners.  They do not form alliances with each other and there is no evidence of aggression with other groups.  

Researchers would like to know if their genetic differences can explain the very different behavior of the three animals. What makes the bonobos playful, the chimpanzees aggressive, and the humans cerebral?

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 16 – Transcending Egocentricity argues that our outdated belief in meaningful differences between groups of human beings is persuasively contradicted by their known genetic similarities.  It states “For these reasons we have to allow perceived human differences to slip away as insignificant and inconsequential.” The results of this research further demonstrate the evolutionary ancestry of human beings and show the behavioral similarities between related species.

Use the following links to obtain more information on the topics in this article:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11128.html

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/bonobo-genome-sequenced.html

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