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Problems in the global agrochemical market

With all the problems and uncertainties the world faces in feeding its growing population it is easy to see new technologies as a “get-out-of-jail card”, but by their nature, they have unquantifiable outcomes, they represent an experiment with our eco-system.

At present there is no sign of any “wonder science” that can greatly increase present levels of food production, without the need for expensive and scarce resources; GM plants are certainly not a solution, though there are very strong commercial interests that would like us to see them as such.  According to Paul and Steinbrecher the global seed and agrochemical market is an oligarchy; “GM biotechnology is a microcosm for industrial development in general.  The increased vertical and horizontal integration of the biotech industry means that ten companies control almost 33 per cent of the commercial seed market; five control 75 per cent of the vegetable seed market, while four control almost 100 per cent of the GM seed market.

Two companies control 34 per cent of the global agrochemical market and ten control 85 per cent.”[1]  It is obviously in the commercial interests of these companies to further tighten their control of the agricultural market, using political lobbying, sophisticated marketing and targeted research projects; the presentation of GM food as a “solution” will create large financial rewards for the GM suppliers, and their associated agrochemical businesses supplying chemicals like Monsanto’s “Roundup”. The European Union has taken steps to ban the herbicide glyphosate because of concerns about its environmental impact. Reuters noted that an EU ban, “would also hit Monsanto’s bottom line: If the EU were to halt glyphosate sales, the company could see earnings reduced by up to $100 million as its premium branded Roundup product is diverted to the generic market, said Bernstein senior analyst Jonas Oxgaard.[2]

Monsanto also produces seeds which grow into plants genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in “Roundup”, these are known as “Roundup Ready” crops. [3]

[1] Helena Paul and Richarda Steinbrecher – “Hungry Corporations, Transnational Biotech Companies Colonise the Food Chain”, Zed Books, London and New York, 2003

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-eu-glyphosate-idUSKCN0YS0Y0

[3] “Roundup” is the trademarked brand name of a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide produced by the American company Monsanto and contains the active ingredient glyphosate.  Monsanto also produces seeds which grow into plants genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate which are known as Roundup Ready crops. The genes contained in these seeds are patented. Such crops allow farmers to use glyphosate as a post-emergence pesticide against both broadleaf and cereal weeds. (Wikipedia.com)

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