Spending on crop seeds has nearly quadrupled since 1996, when Monsanto Co. became the first of the companies to launch biotech varieties. Yet major crop prices have skidded lower for three years, and this year, many farmers stand to lose money.
Since 2013, the world has produced millions of tons more corn, soybeans and wheat than it has consumed, according to the USDA. From their 2012 peak at around $8 a bushel, corn prices fell to half that in mid-2014 and have largely traded between $3.50 and $4.00 a bushel since then, skidding to $3.01½ in late August. Soybean prices have dropped 46% from their 2012 peak.
For every dollar that biotech seeds saved farmers in pesticides and labor, Monsanto would keep about 33 cents, in the form of a “technology fee” charged on top of each bag of seed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this year that 94% of soybean acres were planted with biotech varieties, and 92% of corn acres.