It’s been awhile since we unleashed our bloodhounds on the world’s creepiest company.
The company, of course, is Monsanto (NYSE: MON).
As everyone knows, Monsanto has a long history of cringeworthy transgressions.
The company had a big hand in producing Agent Orange — a defoliant chemical used by the United
States in the Vietnam War.
Monsanto also sold DDT, PCBs, the controversial dairy cow hormone rBGH and the cancer-linked aspartame sweetener.
Yet scientific perversions abound…
Monsanto is in the headlines again because a key ingredient in its Roundup weed-killer glyphosate is now officially “known to cause cancer.”
“The listing is the latest legal setback for the seeds and chemicals company, which has faced increasing litigation over glyphosate since the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said that it is ‘probably carcinogenic’ in a controversial ruling in 2015.” — reports the Reuters newswire.
Despite the seemingly endless negativity, Monsanto shares have outperformed the S&P 500 by a full percentage point this year.
Such is an indication that the market expects further growth.
So what will Monsanto’s latest Frankenstein look like?
Our bloodhounds picked up the scent…
Below are two of the most disturbing products from Monsanto yet.
Monsanto’s Curse on Farmers
Monsanto has a wonderful plan for American farmers.
As you know, weeds are some the biggest threats to crops.
Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds already produce crops that are resistant to harsh weather and herbicides.
In fact, 90% of GMO soybean seeds are resistant to at least one form of herbicide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The problem is weeds have become resistant to the least toxic of herbicides.
Monsanto’s solution? Create a stronger herbicide to attack the weeds.
The company now offers a new formulation of one of the company’s strongest herbicides available: dicamba-based XtendiMax. This powerful herbicide was approved by the EPA for use in November 2016.
Of course, this required a new strain of soybean seed that resists the stronger herbicide. So the company engineered Xtend soybean seeds that can tolerate dicamba-based weed killers.
Great, right? Not so much…
You see, not all seeds are resistant to XtendiMax.
Less than a year after the XtendiMax launched, farmers began reporting serious damage to their other non–Monsanto crops in nearby fields.
Soon after the reports came in, an Arkansas task force recommended that farmers in the state stop spraying the herbicide next year.
Lawmakers in the state even enacted a ban on dicamba that goes into effect in 2018.
For most companies, that would be the end of the discussion.
But not Monsanto…
The company has already filed an aggressive petition to change the regulation, blaming the farmers for their “misuse” of the chemical.
Yep, you read that right.
It’s the farmers’ fault that the Monsanto herbicide killed their non-Monsanto-seeded crops — which were not “designed” to be dicamba-resistant.
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To be sure, some of the affected farmers may have been guilty of off-label XtendiMax use.
But all of them?
Tough to say, but it’s definitely a creepy situation.
The New American Diet
Obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. and worldwide.
And there’s no question that modern agricultural and food packaging techniques are perpetuating the trend.
Now Monsanto is developing double-fat algae, which have twice the fat of ordinary algae. Why do this? Because they are more useful as potential biofuel.
Let’s just hope that Monsanto takes the proper precautions to prevent this from getting into the food chain.
Of course, Monsanto can’t carry all the blame for being forced to genetically modify our foods.
If humanity had wanted to go on eating organic foods, it should have stopped breeding at about 1800. That’s when the global population hit 1 billion.
At 7–10 billion people — the world population in the 21st century — we need GMOs.
If we get to 15 billion in the 22nd century, we will no doubt be as fat as Monsanto’s algae — while eating recycled human waste from plastic pouches. Given humanity’s excesses, Monsanto regrettably fulfils a need.
Resistance Is Futile
Monsanto and Wall Street are betting there’s nothing to worry about here. And I’ll admit, it’s the odds-on favorite bet, too.
On one of its websites, Monsanto’s proclaiming, “Glyphosate is about half as toxic as table salt and more than 10 times less toxic than caffeine.”
Meanwhile, Bayer’s $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto remains on track. Shares have traded sideways most of the year at a consistent discount to the $128 per share offer price, indicating investors fully expect the deal to close.
I must say the situation is eerily reminiscent of the tobacco industry.
For years, health risks were debated and discredited and then finally confirmed to be legit. Yet tobacco stocks marched on. They’re consistently yielding market-beating returns, almost as if the health concerns didn’t matter.
Heck, that’s still the case! Look no further than Philip Morris Intl. (NYSE: PM). Shares are up 30% year to date, versus a 10% rise for the S&P 500 index.
I don’t expect anything different when it comes to Monsanto. GMOs and Roundup are here to stay. Resistance is futile.
As Hutch points out, abandoning them would mean compromising crop yields at a time when population trends desperately require increased yields. One study suggests yields of grain alone would drop 12% if Roundup use were suddenly discontinued.
A shift away from glyphosate would also mean farmers would turn (back) to more toxic chemicals to control weeds. So it’s a choice between the lesser of two evils.
In this case, Monsanto and Wall Street stand to win while everyday citizens get to add another risk to daily living. If smoking or smartphones don’t give us cancer, our breakfast cereals might.
Ahead of the tape,
Chief Investment Strategist, Wall Street Daily