Monsanto Shareholders Meeting Draws Fire
An array of GMO and pesticide critics spoke out at Monsanto Co.’s annual meeting of shareholders on Friday, Jan. 29 in the company’s hometown of Creve Coeur, Missouri, calling on the company to address concerns about the company’s genetically engineered crop products and the glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide used on those crops.
Shareholder representatives, as well as others from outside organizations, told Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant that the company should take several steps, including reporting on any plans to mitigate risks to human health and the environment tied to Roundup and its main ingredient, glyphosate. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer experts classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And Monsanto is facing numerous lawsuits filed by farmworkers and others who say Roundup caused their cancers.
“Given that about half of Monsanto’s revenue comes from Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides, the labeling of the company’s core product as ‘probably carcinogenic’ is not a healthy boost for the company’s prospects,” John Harrington, CEO of Harrington Investments, said in a statement. Harrington Investments provide investment advisory services with a focus on environmental and social objectives, and has an active shareholder advocacy program.
Along with Harrington Investments, representatives from the Organic Consumers Association, Moms Across America, SumofUs, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and GMO Free Midwest attended the meeting to protest the company’s promotion of Roundup, which the protesters say is tied to a range of diseases.
The group told Monsanto’s Grant that there are an increasing number of independent studies associating glyphosate with cancer, birth defects, kidney disease, and hormone disruption.
Grant deflected the criticisms and said that both glyphosate and GMOs are proven safe: “This is the 20th year of planting GMOs,” said Grant. “Four billion acres have been planted on the planet… without a single health issue. These are the most widely tested products that the food industry has ever seen.”
Monsanto brings in roughly $5 billion a year in revenues from sales of Roundup and related products.
Doctors and scientists have raised concerns about health trends in areas where farm workers and communities, such as Hawaii and Argentina, have high exposures to the chemicals used on Roundup Ready crops, which have been genetically engineered to tolerate being sprayed with glyphosate.
An audio replay of the meeting is available on Monsanto’s website at www.monsanto.com/investors.
Dow Gets Court Go-Ahead on Controversial New Herbicide
A federal appellate court has awarded a victory to Dow AgroSciences in the company’s controversial bid to bring a new weedkiller to U.S. farmlands. The new herbicide, branded Enlist Duo, combines glyphosate and 2,4-D, both of which have been linked to cancer and other health problems.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s request to vacate its own scientists’ 2014 approval of the Dow weedkiller without detailing the reason behind the order.
Dow’s new herbicide is designed to address widespread herbicide resistance that has taken hold on roughly 60 million acres of U.S. farmland after widespread use of glyphosate. Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s Roundup, became pervasive in production of corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops after Monsanto genetically engineered crops to withstand direct dousing of the chemical.
Enlist Duo is designed to be used on genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans developed by Dow to be immune to the glyphosate-2,4D mix. In December, the Chicago Tribune revealed that the EPA approved Enlist Duo after the agency discounted evidence of kidney problems that Dow’s own researchers said were caused by 2,4-D.
Dow has said it sees the Enlist line of crops and chemicals as a $1 billion market opportunity.