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Monsanto and Dicamba, a drama of Shakespearean proportions

(BUSINESS NEWS) Agriculture is easily the world’s most important industry but what happens when seed companies and chemical companies start battling?

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Let’s talk about weeds.

Not that kind of weed. Fun as it is to write about, socioeconomically speaking weed has nothing on weeds. Really get your head around the following number: per the USDA, and they’d know, as of 2012, 41 percent of the land area of the United States was used for agriculture.

That’s not “arable land” or “cleared land” or any other qualifier. All of it. From the peaks of the Rockies to the bit under the squeaky spot in your shower, two-fifths of this absurdly large country is used for one industry.

Between that and, yknow, keeping everybody from starving, agriculture is the Most Important Thing. Anything that changes how agriculture works quite literally changes the country.

Right now, there’s a scary consensus building among experts that it’s changing for the worse.

This is a tale of two names. The first is one you’ve probably heard. In fact, if you’re interested in agriculture or just follow the news (at quality outlets like American Genius, you well-informed, conscientious and terribly attractive person, you) you probably saw this name coming as soon as you knew this was about crops and drama: Monsanto.

Monsanto is a gigantic deal. They’re the world’s biggest seed supplier, with 26 percent of the global market. In particular, they’re far and away the leading seller of genetically modified seed. Roughly 40 percent of cropland in the United States is planted with crops that have patented Monsanto data in their eeny little genes.

They’re also drama magnets. They got straight-up busted for falsifying accounting data in 2016, and they’re under constant fire from folks who have a problem with genetically modified crops in general, since those are Monsanto’s large, seed-filled, faintly glowing bag.

That’s not the problem. The problem is they may be killing crops.

That brings us to the second name: dicamba. Dicamba is a weed killer, patented in 1967 and sold as Banvel, Diablo, Oracle and Vanquish, which I’m pretty sure were my first four WoW characters.

Obviously, dicamba isn’t new. What’s new is that Monsanto has formulated dicamba-resistant seed. That’s a big deal. The thing about plant killers is that they kill plants. As a rule, if you hose down your farm with a herbicide, you stop having a farm pretty quickly.

Monsanto is Monsanto because they changed that. They developed herbicide-resistant crops, specifically resistant to a plant killer called glyphosate.

You may have assaulted a dandelion or two with glyphosate yourself; it’s RoundUp. For decades, you could spray your fields with RoundUp and only the bad stuff would die. 80 flipping percent of American crops are grown from glyphosate-resistant seed, and Monsanto invented it.

Unfortunately, as a wise man once said while fleeing velociraptors, life… finds a way. Weeds are developing glyphosate resistance, or being displaced by species that already have it.

Monsanto needed to make lightning strike twice, and they chose dicamba. They engineered dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean seed and got it on the market, fast.

Then, crops started dying.

There’s no question that’s happening. According to a 2017 survey, 3.1 million acres of crops showed damage from drifting dicamba. The question is what’s causing it, and how (and whether) we can make it stop.

The problem is volatilization. Tl;dr on volatilization is that once administered, herbicides evaporate, forming clouds that move, condense and fall on other plants in unpredictable ways. Dicamba is infamously bad about that. Monsanto, as well as BASF and Du Pont, claimed to have formulated low-volatility versions that solved that problem.

Agriculture scientists and farmers alike have questioned those claims. Reports from multiple parts of the 26 million acres of land now planted with dicamba-resistant seed have described crop damage consistent with volatilization, the problem Monsanto et al said they’d fixed.

Monsanto’s argument is that the damage is just growing pains, the unavoidable consequences and human error that go with bringing a new product to market. The company claims that in 88 percent of cases investigated by Monsanto, the new herbicide had not been used in accordance with directions.

But scientists were able to replicate the effect in controlled conditions: a field sprayed according to Monsanto’s rules for low-volatility dicamba damaged an unsprayed field nearby, just by sharing the same air. According to those scientists, the patterns of crop damage also conflict with the Monsanto claim.

Monsanto is already fielding accusations of rushing or scamming scientific oversight on other products. Weed scientists are making similar accusations about dicamba-resistant seed. Whether that’s the case here or not has yet to be determined.

What is not in debate is that America’s most important industry is facing a serious problem. How – and whether – it gets fixed will have repercussions well beyond Monsanto’s market share.

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

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Business News

Skilled workers can live in any city they wish and still get work [study]

(BUSINESS NEWS) A 2018 study reveals that remote work is on the rise, and the ultra skilled workers can work from any city they wish.

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A 2018 study that surveyed 1,005 hiring decision makers commissioned by Upwork sheds some interesting insights on the attitudes around remote workers and the challenges hiring managers are experiencing finding talent. The remote workforce is the future after all and this study offers both insight into challenges and solutions.

It was noted that talent is becoming harder and harder to find (up to three times more difficult than in past years). Meanwhile, remote work is on the rise, according to 55 percent of managers.

The overarching attitude toward offices becoming temporary anchor points is increasing, indicating that commutes are becoming less common (albeit slightly). Companies are increasingly embracing remote work, and according to 38 percent of those surveyed, it will become the predominant workforce.

A major challenge remains that company policies aren’t caught up to remote work – they are lagging behind or non-existent according to 57 percent of organizations.

Over half of all companies surveyed are using more temporary, contract, or freelance workers and the majority of hiring managers believe agile teams will become the norm in the near future.

Perhaps the juiciest tidbit, the fact that skills are viewed as more important than location suggests that at the end of the day…

remote workforce

If you have the skills, you can live basically anywhere. Remote and freelance work offers a variety of opportunities and means you don’t have to be synchronously local to a team to get work done. This means that you don’t need to be in a big city like New York or Los Angeles to get the big work and have access to opportunity.

Companies are struggling to find talent, and despite a lack of policy support, are opening up to remote work. Adding to this challenge is that more and more Americans are less mobile, due to concerns about cost of living (or other things in our lives), hiring managers are having a harder time finding the right talent to fill their own vacancy.

Skilled workers (those who have the abilities that are in demand and desired by their industry) have the ability to pick and choose where they want to live and it looks like now and the future, companies are coming to meet them. This is good news, and offers more and more opportunities, as well as flexibility for hiring managers.

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Indeed and Glassdoor are now owned by one Japanese company – what’s next?

(TECHNOLOGY) Now that Glassdoor and Indeed are owned by an international brand, how will their main competitors (and search engines) react?

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This year, Glassdoor, one of the most popular job and recruiting sites, has been acquired by Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd. (RCRRF), a Tokyo-based firm in a $1.2 billion cash transaction to become part of Recruit’s growing Human Resources Technology segment.

Recruit Holdings operates Three areas of business: HR Technology, Media & Solutions, and Staffing. In 2012, they acquired CT-based Indeed, which continues to be the number one job site in the world. Glassdoor will continue to operate independently as a part of Recruit Holdings, which holds companies in North America, Europe, and Asia, but it is noteworthy that a Japanese company owns two of the biggest players in the job search game.

The possibilities from this merger are not yet clear, but given that Recruit holds both Indeed and Glassdoor, the opportunity for integration and grouped pricing could eventually be useful for recruiters and HR/Hiring professionals. Although the company has not formally announced that integration is a possibility, considering the stiff competition from LinkedIn Jobs – it would be a great way to gain some competitive advantage.

The acquisition could help Recruit take on Microsoft (who owns LinkedIn) and Google to keep the two from dominating the online job boards, to which are essential for job seekers and talent seekers.

Of course, nothing is set in stone, but the possibilities are there. Recruiters should consider the possibilities for pricing and plan for how they will use the platforms (and how they will integrate Google for Jobs) to best collect the candidates they need.

Job seekers be prepared for more logins and more search sites for jobs and recognize that the possibility of Google no longer indexing Glassdoor (just as Indeed is not indexing on Google jobs).

The conflict between Indeed/Glassdoor, Microsoft, Google, and maybe even Facebook (look at Facebook.com/Jobs) is going to be an interesting battle to watch. JobBoardDoctor described the conflict of Indeed vs. Google as an old-west shoot out at high noon.

I suspect that with all four players in – it’s going to be a cold war in the recruiting world. Sit tight folks. Let’s see whats next!

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This fake company weeds out crappy clients

(BUSINESS) The former CEO of Highrise used a fake website to weed out toxic clients. How can you keep problematic customers out of your business?

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Sorting through your client list to weed out potentially toxic customers isn’t a process which garners the same attention as a company removing problematic employees, but it’s every bit as important — and, in many cases, twice as tricky to accomplish. One innovative journalist’s solution to this problem was to set up a fake website to act as a buffer between unwanted clients and his inbox.

If you’re anything like Nathan Kontny, your inbox is probably brimming with unread emails, product pitches, and pleas from people with whom you’ve never met in person or collaborated; unfortunately, many of these “people” are simply automated bots geared toward generating more press for their services.

Nathan’s response to this phenomenon was to create a website called “Trick a Journalist” in order to see which potential clients would sign up for the service.

Hilariously enough, the trap worked exactly as planned. Anyone signing up for Trick a Journalist was blacklisted and prevented from signing up for Nathan’s CRM software, with Nathan’s justification being that the CRM software in question should never be used for something so egregiously predatory as Trick a Journalist.

By creating a product which sets apart unwanted clients from the rest of the pack, Nathan succeeded in both attracting and quarantining present and future threats to the integrity of his business.

While this model may not be practicable at face value, there’s an important lesson here: determining the lengths to which your clients will go to gain the upper hand BEFORE working for them is an important task, as your clients’ actions will reflect upon your product or services either way.

Ruthlessness in business isn’t unheard of, but you should be aware of your customers’ tendencies well in advance of signing off on their behavior.

Of course, one minor issue with Nathan’s model of operation is that, invariably, someone will connect Trick a Journalist to his brand and miss the joke entirely.

There are less risky routes to weeding out potentially problematic clients than blacklisting them via a satirical website — though one might argue such routes are less fun — but the end result is essentially the same: keeping unsavory clients out of your inbox and off of your product list.

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