Food: Is Monsanto the answer or the problem?

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, had only months to live when he received a visit from an old friend, Rob Fraley, chief of technology for Monsanto Co.

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Biotech companies race for drought-tolerant crops

JOHNSTON, Iowa (Reuters)- Outside the headquarters of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc, the pavement is iced over and workers arriving for the day are bundled up against the cold. 

But inside a laboratory, a warm, man-made drought is in force, curling the leaves of rows of fledgling corn plants as million-dollar machines and scientists in white coats monitor their distress.

This work is part of a global race pitting Pioneer, Monsanto Co and other biotech companies against each other in a race to develop new strains of corn and other crops that can thrive when water is in short supply.  

“Equipping plants to be able to maintain productivity in the driest years is of critical importance,” said Bill Niebur, global vice president for research and development at Pioneer, a division of DuPont. “Drought is a global problem and we recognize the threat that comes with climate change. We’ve got our top talent in our organization working on this.”

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Biotech dairy debate

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Jan 18 (Reuters) - Five years ago, Missouri dairy farmer Leroy Shatto was struggling to stay in business. Today, his herd has more than doubled amid a surge in demand for his product. The difference: a marketing campaign touting Shatto milk as free of artificial hormones.

Osborn, Missouri-based Shatto milk comes plain or flavored, but all comes from cows free of the genetically engineered hormone supplements that many conventional dairies give cows to to boost their milk production.

“That is what the consumers want now,” said Shatto, who runs a small family farm of 220 cows. “People are demanding this stuff not to be in their milk. If I had 100 more cows tomorrow, I still couldn’t keep caught up with demand.”

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Competition threatens biotech crop king

The golden stalks of corn and lush green soybean fields that shape the U.S. farm landscape would not normally be described as battlefields. But that’s what they are turning into as the world’s biggest agricultural technology companies wage a fight for market share of biotech corn, soybeans and other crops. And it’s about to get bloody.

Facilitated by a series of acquisitions and favourable court rulings, Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co. and Syngenta Seeds, Inc., the world’s biggest agrichemicals company, are levelling a direct challenge to Monsanto Co., the acknowledged king of biotech agriculture.

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Monsanto profit rises, shares at three-year high

Monsanto reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on June 30, thanks to strong sales of herbicide and genetically modified seeds.

The St. Louis company, whose shares rose to the highest level in three years, attributed the gains to an earlier-than-normal rush by producers to apply herbicides on North American farm fields, and steady growth in biotech soybeans, corn and other crops.

The company posted a 45 percent rise in net income to $252 million US, or 93 cents a share, for the fiscal third quarter ended May 31, compared with $174 million, or 66 cents, in the year-earlier quarter.

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Monsanto floats U.S.-only GM wheat release

Monsanto is discussing with the American wheat industry whether it should be held to its promise not to release genetically modified wheat in the United States unless it can simultaneously market it in Canada, wheat industry officials said last week. Monsanto told top officials from U.S. wheat growing and marketing organizations that it was facing stiff opposition to its GM wheat in Canada.

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