GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Monsanto moving into seed business

Monsanto has bought the strategically important US seed company, Holden's
Foundation Seed for just over $1 billion, thereby increasing its already
large stake in the US seed industry.  The purchase price is 23 times
Holden's annual sales figures, whereas a normal purchase price for a
company would be two or three times annual sales.  The strategic importance
of Holden's is that it controls 30-40% of the market for inbred corn lines,
used by seed companies to create hybrids.  Holden's even supplies Pioneer,
the world's largest seed company, so the Monsanto move is being seen as
part of its overall strategy of becoming a major force in the seed
industry.

Meanwhile, many of the major agricultural biotechnology companies are
engaged in patent disputes over crops engineered with Bt toxin.  According
to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the number of
lawsuits in biotechnology has increased by 69% over the last two years,
largely due to disputes over genetically engineered crops.  A recent patent
which seems likely to further this trend is Novartis' (formed by the merger
of Ciba Geigy and Sandoz) patent on genetically engineered wheat.