April 08, 2002

The Five Gene Giants are Becoming Four

DuPont and Monsanto - "Living in Sinergy"?

Rather than enter into a marriage that even the U.S. Government would find unpalpable, the world's two most powerful Gene Giants have decided to live in sync by sharing their proprietary agricultural biotechnologies with one another. Unless the two titans are committing to long-term monogamy, such a tech-swap is the corporate equivalent of "unprotected sex". It seems the risks in this particular union will be offloaded on farmers with fewer choices and higher prices - the corporate notion of "Fee Love"?

Corporate Coupling: The low-key announcement by DuPont and Monsanto (85% owned by Pharmacia) April 2nd was presented as a "win" for farmers who, the companies' joint statement claimed, will have access to more technology choices. The companies are not proposing to merge. Instead the world's first and second largest seed enterprises are agreeing to swap their key patented technologies and to drop a bushel of outstanding patent lawsuits that have festered for years. The agreement creates the kind of non-merger monopoly that is overlooked by government regulators.

The DuPont - Monsanto alliance does not extend to the whole range of products and processes controlled by the two companies. Only agricultural biotechnology patents are involved but the companies' roles in crop chemicals as well as in seeds are implicated since the lion's share of their biotech activity relates to herbicide-tolerant and insect- resistant transgenes.


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