PANNA: Monsanto Sales Down, CEO Out and Weed Resistance Up


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Monsanto Sales Down, CEO Out and Weed Resistance Up
December 20, 2002

On December 18, 2002, Monsanto announced the resignation of its president and chief executive Hendrik Verfaillie, ending a 26 year career with the company. In a press release the company stated that the resignation was a mutual decision. Both Verfaillie and the board of directors agreed "that the company's performance during the past two years has been disappointing." However, according to the St. Louis Dispatch, "industry analysts and those who have closely worked with Verfaillie over the years said they believe the board called for his resignation." Monsanto stocks fell almost 6% at the news; Monsanto's stock has fallen nearly 50% since January.

Monsanto's sales in the third quarter of 2002 dropped over 27%, while sales for the first nine months of the year were down by almost 19%, to US$3.45 billion from US$4.25 billion in 2001. Monsanto attributes the drops to unusually dry conditions in the U.S. throughout the summer and early autumn, plus a sharp decline in maize seed sales in Brazil and Argentina. Sales of Monsanto's herbicides, including its flagship herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), were down almost 43% in the third quarter. There was a 26% decline in herbicide sales (to US$1.5 billion) in the first nine months.

According to Monsanto, U.S. sales of Roundup will total 37-39 million gallons in 2002, approximately 76-80% of the total U.S. market for glyphosate of 49 million gallons. The company's share of the U.S. market is projected to fall to about 60% by 2005. Globally, Monsanto expects to sell 57 million gallons of Roundup in 2002, or about 38% of total world glyphosate sales.

In April 2002, Monsanto announced 700 job cuts primarily in Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia and North America. (Monsanto has nearly 14,600 workers worldwide.)

Monsanto also announced that global plantings of the company's genetically engineered crops have increased this year by 10.5% to 136.2 million acres (55.1 million hectares). In the U.S., Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans (soybeans engineered to be resistant to glyphosate), are the most widely planted genetically engineered crop; plantings increased 9.9% to 60.2 million acres in 2002. Plantings of Monsanto's Bt cotton (cotton engineered to produce an insecticide), however, declined in the U.S. (from 0.5 million acres to 0.4 million) and China (from 2.2 million acres to 1.9 million).

Another problem facing Monsanto is the growing number of cases of glyphosate-resistant weeds. For years, Monsanto maintained that resistance was not a problem. In the past few years, however, cases of resistance have been documented around the world. In 1996, resistant Rigid Ryegrass was found in one part of Australia; then in 1997, it was discovered in New South Wales. Cases of resistant Rigid Ryegrass have also been documented in California (2-5 sites) in 1998, and in South Africa (11-50 sites) in 2001.

In 1997, Goosegrass resistant to glyphosate was found in multiple orchards in Malaysia. Glyphosate-resistant Italian Ryegrass was discovered in orchards in Chile in 2001.Weed scientists there estimate that up to 500 acres may be infested.

In 2000, cases of resistant Horseweed (also known as Marestail) began appearing in soybean fields in the United States. Resistance has been documented in Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee. In Tennessee, resistant Horseweed was also found in cotton. Scientists estimate that from 100,000 to one million acres are infested with resistant Horseweed, primarily in Tennessee and Delaware.

Syngenta, one of Monsanto's top competitors, recently released a white paper examining the impact of glyphosate-resistant weeds on land value. The paper concludes that specific weed resistance can reduce a farm's rentable value by 17%, and that the greatest weed-resistance concern is glyphosate tolerance in Roundup Ready crops.

Sources:
Agrow: World Crop Protection News, November 29, 2002.
"Glypohsate-Resistant Weeds: Will They Decrease Land Value?, Syngenta, http://www.ecast.protusfax.com/redirector.asp?URL=http://www.syngentacropprotection-us.com/Resources/Prod/Touchdown/Land_Values.pdf&BID=45925538&EID=4491.
Monsanto press releases, December 18, 2002.
International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, http://www.weedscience.org/.
Associated Press, December 18, 2002. St. Louis Dispatch, December 19, 2002.

Contact: PANNA.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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