----- Original Message -----From: [log in to unmask] href="mailto:[log in to unmask]">Stephanie WeisenbachSent: 5/22/2006 1:49:23 PMSubject: wfan list> Monsanto & Seminis "super vegetables"WFAN members,It's hard to always know who the supplier is in seed catalogs, yet often it is Seminis. Their tie with Monsanto is explicitly described in this year's FedCo Seeds catalog (out of Maine). FedCo now refuses to carry any of Seminis' seeds. They are the only seed company I've seen that is taking such a strong stand against Monsanto's intended manipulation of vegetable seeds. See article below:Seminis Monsanto-tie fuels "super vegetables"
Sun May 21, 2006 12:10 PM ET
By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - At Seminis Inc., the world's largest
fruit and vegetable seed company, carrots come in a rainbow of colors
and flavors, lettuce grows perfectly sandwich-sized, and a menu of
"super vegetables" such as cancer-fighting broccoli are in development.
A growing demand for healthier and tastier foods is driving this effort
to remake many of the world's common consumption crops, industry experts
say. And it is pushing Seminis -- fortified by Monsanto, the biggest
player in farm biotech -- to use a range of plant breeding innovations
as it vies with competitors for coveted market share and grocery shelf
space around the globe.
"We're seeing a total revolution. We now have a much wider range of
products, which are designed with the end-user, the consumer, in mind,"
said Verdant Partners LLC. consultant Rod Stacey, who specializes in
global seed industry issues.
Oxnard, Calif.-based Seminis is the industry leader in the $2.4 billion
vegetable seed trade, garnering revenues of $565 million last year,
marketing seeds for specialized sweet yellow peppers, hybrid spinach,
"Bambino" personal-sized, seedless watermelons and other foods that are
part of Seminis' collection of more than 3,000 seed varieties.
Seminis said it controls 34 percent of the North American vegetable seed
market, and supplies 23 percent of the world tomato seed market and 34
percent of the hot pepper seed market.
The company was founded by a group of Mexican businessmen in 1994 and
grew through a series of mergers. But amid competition with
Switzerland-based Syngenta Seeds, Groupe Limagrain's Paris-based
Vilmorin Clause & Cie, Germany-based Bayer CropScience and others,
Seminis stumbled over inventory management, product marketing and other
issues, leaving itself on shaky financial ground.
That changed a year ago when agricultural technology giant Monsanto Co.
<MON.N> of St. Louis, Missouri, bought Seminis for $1.4 billion in cash
and assumed debt. Now, with $5 billion-asset Monsanto muscle backing it,
Seminis is emerging as a more powerful player in the evolution of how
the world eats.
"The company has changed focus and gotten better," said seed industry
consultant Tim Tryon. "They were going down the wrong path fast. But
oversight now is looking real good. "
SPEEDIER SEED BREEDING
Under Monsanto's umbrella, Seminis is employing its molecular breeding
technology to speed the roll-out of seeds designed with characteristics
for higher yields, improved quality and enhanced disease resistance.
Onions, carrots, tomatoes, all can be had in varying colors, tastes and
For consumers, the company also is also focused on new varieties of
broccoli that have three times as many cancer-fighting compounds than
regular broccoli, tomatoes with enhanced levels antioxidant levels, and
other offerings the company calls "super vegetables" with enhanced
flavor as well as nutrition.
The company is also revising its marketing strategies for products like
lettuce grown firm and folded so its leaves can be used instead of bread
to hold sandwich fillings.
The changes afoot also come as many Monsanto veterans take over the top
jobs at Seminis. Kerry Preete, former vice president of Monsanto crop
production has taken over as CEO and Monsanto executives hold top jobs
in finance, strategy, marketing, research and development.
"We feel we have a great mix of people now... to get the best of both
worlds," Preete said in a recent interview.
The first year under Monsanto's ownership was clouded by disappointing
results in Europe, which Preete said were due in part to weather-related
problems, and soft tomato prices.
But Preete said Seminis was on track to contribute 20 cents a share to
Monsanto's bottom line for fiscal 2006 and was positioned for
"We're focused on both ends of the chain, the grower level and the
consumer-level," said Preete. "We're building platforms around enhanced
nutrition, color and texture."
The marriage of Monsanto's technology and Seminis' market reach has
sparked concern in some industry sectors, particularly for organic
goods' purveyors, who eschew anything genetically modified, a Monsanto
They say Monsanto's market dominance in row crops like corn and soybeans
and its push to patent genetic modifications has trapped farmers in a
web of high prices and limited seed options and they fear the same will
happen to them.
Some organic seed companies have stopped doing business entirely with
Seminis because of its tie to Monsanto, said Tony Kleese executive
director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
"If Monsanto and their partners buy up all the seeds and patent them and
genetically modify them, we're in trouble," said Kleese. "Then we can't
have any organic seeds."
American Seed Trade Association chief executive Andy LaVigne said that
despite the fears of some niche players, the industry changes were
beneficial to growers and consumers.
"They want, they demand, improved products," said LaVigne. "It is an
evolution in the industry."
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