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Monsanto’s Expanding Monopolies From Seed to Water


Over the past few years, Monsanto, a chemical company, has positioned itself

as an agricultural company through control over seed the first link in the food

chain. Monsanto now wants to control water, the very basis of life.

In 1996, Monsanto bought the biotechnology assets of

Agracetus, a subsidiary

of W.R. GRACE, for $150 million and Calagene, a California based plant

biotechnology company for $340 million. In 1997, Monsanto acquired Holden seeds,

the Brazilian seed company Sementes Agrocerus and Asgrow. In 1998, Monsanto

purchased Cargill’s seed operations for $1.4 billion. It bought Delta and Pine

land for $1.82 billion and Dekalb for $2.3 billion. It bought Unilever’s

European wheat breeding business for $525 million. In India Monsanto has bought

Mahyco, Maharashtra Hybrid Company, E.I.D. Parry and Rallis. Mr.Jack Kennedy of

Monsanto has stated "We propose to penetrate the Indian Agricultural sector

in a big way. MAHYCO is a good vehicle." According to Robert Farley of

Monsanto "what you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed

companies, it is really a consolidation of the entire food chain. Since water is

an central to food production as seed is, and without water life is not

possible. Monsanto is now trying to establish its control over water. During

1999 Monsanto plans to launch a new water business, starting with India and

Mexico since both these countries are facing water shortages.

Monsanto is seeing a new business opportunity in water because of the

emerging water crisis and the funding available to make this vital resource

available to people. As it states in its strategy paper, "first we believe

that discontinuities (either major policy changes or major trendline breaks in

resource quality or quantity) are likely, particularly in the area of water and

we will be well positioned via these business to profit even more significantly

when these discontinuities occur. Second, we are exploring the potential of

non-conventional financing (NGO’s, World Bank, USDA etc.) that may lower our

investment or provide local country business building resources." Thus, the

crisis of pollution and depletion of water resources is viewed by Monsanto as a

business opportunity. For Monsanto "Sustainable Development" means the

conversion of an ecological crisis into a market of scarce resources. "The

business logic of sustainable development is that population growth and economic

development will apply increasing pressure on natural resource markets. These

pressures and the world’s desire to prevent the consequences of these pressures

if unabated, will create vast economic opportunity when we look at the world

through the lens of sustainability we are in a position to see current and

foresee impending resource market trends and imbalances that create market

needs. We have further focussed this lens on the resource market of water and

land.

These are the markets that are most relevant to us as a life sciences company

committed to delivering "food, health and hope" to the world, and

there are markets in which there are predictable sustainability challenges and

therefore opportunities to create business value." Monsanto plans to earn

revenues of $420 million and net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water

business in India and Mexico. By the year 2010 about 2.5 billion people in the

world are projected to lack access to safe drinking water. At least 30% of the

population in China, India, Mexico and US is expected to face severe water

stress. By the year 2025 the supply of water in India will be 700 cubic

kilometers per year while the demand is expected to rise to 1050 units. Control

over this scarce and vital resource will of course be a source of guaranteed

profits. As John Bastin of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development

has stated "Water is the last infrastructure frontier for Private

investors." Monsanto estimates that providing safe water is a several

billion dollar market. It is growing at 25 – 30% in rural communities and is

estimated to be $300 million by the year 2000 in India and Mexico. This is the

amount currently spent by NGO’s for water development projects and local

government water supply schemes and Monsanto hopes to tap these public finances

for providing water to rural communities and convert water supply into market.

The Indian Government spent over $ 1.2 billion between 1992-97 for various water

projects whicle the World Bank spent $900 million. Monsanto would like to divert

this public money from public supply of water to establishing Monsanto’s water

monopoly. Since in rural areas the poor cannot pay, in Monsanto’s view

"Capturing a piece of the value created for this segment will require the

creation of a non-traditional mechanism targeted at building relationships with

local government and NGO’s as well as through innovative financing mechanisms,

such as microcredit. Monsanto also plans to penetrate the Indian market for safe

water by establishing a joint venture with Eureka Forbes / TATA, which controls

70% of the UV Technologies. To enter the water business Monsanto has acquired an

equity stake in Water Health International (WHI) with an option to buy the rest

of the business. Monsanto will also buy a Japanese company which has developed

electrolysis technology. The joint venture with TATA / Eureka Forbes is supposed

to provide market access, and fabricate, distribute, service water systems,

Monsanto will leverage their brand equity in the Indian Market. The joint

venture route has been chosen so that "Monsanto can achieve management

control over local operations but not have legal consequences due to local

issues."

Another new business that Monsanto is starting in 1999 in Asia in

aquaculture. The aquaculture business will build on the foundation of Monsanto’s

agricultural biotechnology and capabilities for fish feed and fish breeding. By

2008 Monsanto expects to earn revenues of $1.6 billion and net income of $266

million from its aquaculture business. While Monsanto’s entry into aquaculture

is through its Sustainable Development activity, industrial aquaculture has been

established to be highly non sustainable. The Supreme Court of India had banned

industrial shrimp farming because of it’s catastrophic consequences. However,

the government, under pressure of the aquaculture industry, is attempting to

change the laws, to undo the Supreme Court order. At the same time, attempts are

being made by the World Bank to privatise water resources and establish trade in

water rights. These trends will suit Monsanto well in establishing its new Water

Business and Aquaculture business. The World Bank has already offered to help.

As the Monsanto strategy paper states "We are particularly enthusiastic

about the potential of partnering with the International Finance Corporation (IFC)

of the World Bank to joint venture projects in developing markets. The IFC is

eager to work with Monsanto to commercialise sustainability opportunities and

would bring both investment capital and on the ground capabilities to our

efforts."

Monsanto’s Water and Aquaculture Business, like it’s seed business, is aimed

at controlling vital resources necessary for survival, converting them into a

market and using public finances to underwrite the investments. A more efficient

conversion of public goods into private profit would be difficult to find. Water

is however too basic for life and survival. The right to water is the right to

life. The privatisation and commodification of water is a threat to the right to

life. India has had major water movements to conserve and share water. The Pani

Panchayat and the water conservation movement in Maharashtra and Tarun Bharat

Sangh in Alwar, have regenerated and equitably shared water as a commons. This

is the only way that everyone will have the right to water and nobody will have

the right to abuse and overuse water. Water is a commons and must be managed as

a commons. It cannot be controlled and sold by a Life Sciences Corporation that

peddles in Death.

 

 

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