(UR) Monsanto recently announced a $140 million-dollar investment in Lubbock, Texas, for the creation of a 500,000 square-foot, state of the art GM cotton processing plant; but the seed-monopolizing company faces lawsuits from farmers and disdain from local environmental groups, who aren’t necessarily welcoming Monsanto into the small town with open arms.
Monsanto plans to make Lubbock both the largest plant site to date as well as the U.S. cotton seed processing hub. The company also claims that the plant will provide a $11.2 million economic boost to the region, while providing 40 full-time jobs and 15-25 part-time jobs; but community members aren’t looking at just the press release for their information about Monsanto’s long-term effects on the area.
Monsanto claims that 80 percent of the country’s cotton would be bagged at the plant, making it an epicenter for cotton processing. Since Lubbock has one of the biggest cotton patches in the U.S., arguably in the world, it’s no wonder Monsanto was eyeing the location for groundbreaking just a month ago, with an expected completion date in the later half of 2017.
The company also seems well aware that not everyone is excited about the plant’s opening. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
“Monsanto representatives said they are aware of the controversial comments made about the company and said they welcome civil dialogues.
“‘We respect that there are different points of view and we know everyone isn’t going to agree with us, but we’re glad that people are open to sharing their questions and concerns,’ said Ben Eberle, Monsanto corporate communications and media relations manager. ‘These are real issues that deserve a civil dialogue, and we’re encouraged by those who want to be part of it.’”
Many farmers are concerned that their crops will be tainted with Monsanto’s GMO cotton. LaRhea Pepper, owner of an organic cotton farm in Borden County, was a plaintiff in the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto case. This case was comprised of over 60 family farmers who sued Monsanto for contaminating their non-GM crops. The plaintiffs now total more than 300,000 individuals representing 4,500 farms since the case was originally filed in court. Farmers were denied the right to argue their case and gain protection from potential cross-pollination by the agrichemical and genetic engineering giant, Monsanto. Pepper explained:
“We felt like (Monsanto’s) technology is unpatentable, primarily because they can’t control their technology. Monsanto is guilty of a GMO tsunami-contamination — not only in cotton, but in all the crops. They denied our suit because (the court) said it was a frivolous claim. (Monsanto) was claiming that they can control their technology, but the reality is they are not.”
Under current patent law, organic farmers are required to keep genetically modified varieties out of their fields if they want to keep their organic certification. If Monsanto is processing cotton that is 90 percent genetically-modified in a region that, arguably is already growing mostly GM cotton, it only makes the prospect of growing non-GM crops exaggeratedly difficult.
Since 1997, Monsanto has filed 147 lawsuits against farmers in the U.S. for violating the company’s patents.
Only nine of the 147 were taken to trial, and all nine decisions were found in Monsanto’s favor. Lubbock organic farmers are right to worry about chemical and pollen drift, and other damning circumstances which the new plant will likely cause.
This move to make Lubbock a centralized processing area is likely part of the company’s restructuring plans. Monsanto has recently cut thousands of jobs and the new earnings reports don’t look promising — more like a continuation of several quarters of falling profits. The Motley Fool reports:
“Monsanto’s fiscal second-quarter results continued the negative trends that investors have gotten used to seeing lately. Revenue dropped 13% from the year-ago quarter to $4.53 billion, falling short of the $4.76 billion consensus figure among investors following the stock. Net income fell by a quarter to $1.06 billion, and that produced adjusted earnings of $2.42 per share. That was $0.02 less than investors had expected.
“Looking more closely at Monsanto’s results, the company’s segments were universally weak. The key seeds and genomics segment saw sales drop by 9% to $3.82 billion, with double-digit percentage hits on the corn, soybean, and other-crops product lines. Only the cotton-seed arena posted a sales increase, and it makes up less than 1% of the total seed-related revenue Monsanto brings in. [P]retax operating results fell by $325 million from last year’s fiscal second quarter, weighing in at less than $1.50 billion. Monsanto’s other main segment, Agricultural Productivity, suffered a 30% sales hit to $715 million, and the company saw pretax profit evaporate almost entirely to just $7 million for the quarter.”
Perhaps the Lubbock plant is a last-ditch effort to save Monsanto’s failing business model.
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