Latin America: why did Monsanto profits dip?

The Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company announced on Jan. 7 that its revenues for September through November 2014, the first quarter of the company's current fiscal year, fell to $2.87 billion from $3.14 billion for the same period the year before. The decline was less than analysts had expected. According to Bloomberg News, this was because the losses, including a 12% drop in corn seed sales, were partly offset by sales of Monsanto's new Intacta soybeans, which the company says are genetically modified to withstand pests in South America. But the losses themselves were "in part, due to the reduction in sowing areas in South America," the Spanish agricultural news site agroinformació reported. Agroinformació also cited resistance to the construction of a seed processing plant in Malvinas Argentinas in Argentina's central Córdoba province. (Bloomberg, Jan. 7; agroinformació, Jan. 8)

In December residents of Malvinas Argentinas—a small working-class town near the provincial capital, also named Córdoba—celebrated their success so far in stopping Monsanto's factory, which was to be the company's largest South American seed processing plant. Since September 2013 residents have been blocking construction crews' access to the site. Construction has in fact been suspended since January 2014, when an appeals court ordered the company to produce a new environmental impact study. Although the provincial government initially promoted the construction, in February the province's Environmental Secretariat rejected the company' new study. Monsanto is now reportedly looking at other sites.

Despite activists' apparent success in Malvinas Argentinas—and a growing Latin American movement against Monsanto and other producers of genetically modified (GM) seeds—Argentina's major farmers still rely heavily on the products. The country's huge soybean crop is 100% transgenic, as are 92% of the cotton crop and 84% of the corn crop. The 23.9 million hectares of GM crop in the country represent the world's third largest surface sowed with transgenic seed, after the US with 69.5 million hectares and Brazil with 36.6 million hectares. (BBC Mundo, Dec. 14)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 11.