Monsanto re-engineers drought-resistant corn and cotton for climate change

Darryl Bush/ZUMA Source: Mother Jones

Maggie Severns reports about, “5 ways Monsanto wants to profit off climate change,” including spreading newly patented, genetically engineered, drought resistant corn and cotton and purchasing, “Climate change-oriented startup Climate Corporation for $930 million.”

Severn writes:

In southern Africa, where corn is the largest agricultural product, last month’s report from the IPCC predicts that by the end of the century, it is “likely” that the area will become dryer due to climate change and that this “will [increase] the risk of agricultural drought.” Though the drought-resistant corn is currently only being sold in the US, the market for hybrid corn in South Africa alone is worth an estimated $250 million, according to Reuters, and the continent has an estimated 75 million acres of land available for corn production. Monsanto has been ramping up its presence in sub-Saharan Africa through the Gates foundation-fundedWater Efficient Maize for Africa program, donating germplasm (starter seeds) and drought-tolerant corn traits and, Reuters says, developing relationships with local organizations.

Whenever I read about newly patented, genetically engineered crops, I wonder where the long-term studies on the efficacy and potential harmful effects are.  It would appear that this doesn’t much matter to corporations like Monsanto, nor to the governing bodies that allow these food-like products on to the market, sans labeling.  But, no worries as Monsanto sells insurance to cover any losses from crop failures.  Severn continues:

Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans that pay out additional benefits when crops go awry. While federal insurance repays farmers up to the break-even point for a failed crop, Climate Corporation insures the lost profits as well. Monsanto says it will maintain this insurance business.

Though the broader insurance industry is concerned about losses due to major natural disasters occurring more often as the result of climate change, insuring crops is less risky because payouts for a damaged crop season a generally smaller than those for dense, damaged urban areas, according to Gerald Nelson, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois.

Monsanto was also the first corporation to produce GMO corn seed for biofuels, according to the report:

Since 1993, Monsanto has sold high-yield, highly fermentable corn seed specifically designed to be made into ethanol—it was the first company to do so. Ethanol processors that have partnered with Monsanto through a related program buy the corn at a premium because it produces more fuel per bushel of corn. The company also sells soybeans and sorghum, which can be used to produce biofuel.

Whether ethanol is actually a “green” fuel is debatable. But in recent years, laws aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign oil have helped boost its production, and if corn-based ethanol continues rising in demand, “the financial opportunity could be significant for the business,” Monsanto says in its Carbon Disclosure Project filing.

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