Monsanto, the world's largest seed manufacturer known for its sprawling genetically modified corn, cotton, soy and canola crops, is now setting its sights for the rest of your plate, with seeds for commonly grown fruits and vegetable items its newest focus.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, residents in states including California may already be consuming Monsanto "onions that produce fewer tears," "broccoli that decreases cholesterol," and "orange tomatoes that last longer on the shelf." Melons that mature faster and sweet corn resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup pesticide, among other modifications, are also on the way.
Finding a loophole in averting the growing consumer concerns about the environmental and human health impacts of GMOs, the fruit and vegetable seeds are not 100 percent genetically modified; Monsanto is instead using hybrid technology that pairs conventional breeding methods used for thousands of years with its controversial biotech. This hybrid technology develops fruit and vegetable seeds quicker than the process of creating genetically modified seeds (which can take as long as a decade), allowing for rapid turnaround into the marketplace.
Produce seeds are a $3 billion per year business worldwide, and Monsanto wants a piece of the action. The Times quotes Hugh Grant, Monsanto's CEO as saying, "This isn't a hobby." The company has come to dominate the American landscape's most commonly grown crops: Eighty-six percent of corn, 93 percent of soy and cotton and 90 percent of canola grown in the U.S. is now genetically modified, and most of that comes via Monsanto's booming biotech efforts.
The company is expecting to see its fruit and vegetable seed revenue rival its massive $1.5 billion soybean business. After acquiring seed manufacturer Seminis Inc. in 2005, Monsanto has since purchased four more seed companies, expanded to 57 research centers, and nearly one-fifth—4,000 of its 21,000 employees—are working on growing the fruit and vegetable seed business.
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