Monsanto set to help fight spreading "super-weeds"

* Acknowledges spreading weed resistance problems

* Says will offer new weed-fighting product

* Critics say effort comes late and may not be enough

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 27 (BestGrowthStock) – Monsanto Co (MON.N: ),
said on Thursday it will restructure its herbicide products in
an effort to help combat the spreading environmental woes of
herbicide-resistant weeds, also known as “super weeds,” which
many critics have blamed on the chemical giant.

“We need to get in front of this,” Monsanto chairman Hugh
Grant said in a conference call with analysts.

Grant acknowledged that weed resistance was a problem for
U.S. cotton farmers, and was emerging as a bigger problem for
soybean farmers. But he said the issue was not yet a big
problem for corn farmers.

Monsanto is the world’s leading seed company and purveyor
of the popular Roundup herbicide.

The company’s development of glyphosate-tolerant biotech
soybeans, corn and cotton and its push for farmers to use its
glyphosate-based Roundup with those crops has accelerated
herbicide usage and consequently weed resistance to an
environmentally dangerous level, critics have charged.

Experts estimate glyphosate-resistant weeds have infested
close to 11 million acres so far. More than 130 types of weeds
have developed levels of herbicide resistance in more than 40
U.S. states, more resistant weeds than found in any other
country, according to weed scientists.

“It is too bad it has taken this long for Monsanto to get
serious about addressing this problem,” said Charles Benbrook,
chief scientist at The Organic Center and former executive
Director of the agriculture board of the National Academy of
Sciences.

“If solid glyphosate-resistance management plans had been
put in place three or four years ago, the worst of the problem
could have been prevented,” he said.

Grant said Monsanto would create a new product offering
that would combine Roundup with complementary chemicals for a
new weed control regimen at a lower cost than farmers are
paying today.

Monsanto officials said currently a southern U.S. cotton
farmer is paying $40 to $60 an acre in weed control measures,
up from $20 to $25 an acre a few years ago.

“There’s good news for farmers in all of this. We’re going
to bring simplicity to weed management,” Grant said in a
statement. “Weed resistance is real, but managing it doesn’t
have to be complex.”

Weed resistance to glyphosate has been mounting across the
United States in recent years as Monsanto’s genetically
modified “Roundup Ready” corn, soybeans and other crops that
withstand dousings of the herbicide have gained popularity with
farmers.

The vast majority of U.S. acreage devoted to those crops is
now planted with Roundup Ready varieties.

Monsanto introduced the genetically altered crops as
efficiency enhancements for farmers.

But environmentalists and other critics claim with the
Roundup Ready crops, herbicide usage has risen to such a level
that weeds have developed resistance levels that make it
difficult to kill them, which in turn leads farmers to boost
use of other types of herbicides.

Last year, a report by the Organic Center (TOC), the Union
for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety
(CFS) said that weed resistance was directly tied to the rapid
increase of herbicide use, which grew by 383 million pounds
from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase
occurring in 2007 and 2008.

“The problem is already threatening the economic viability
of the cotton industry in the southeast,” Benbrook said.
“Farmers in the Midwest better really pay attention and deal
with it if they want to escape further problems.”

Monsanto’s shares slid sharply Thursday as the company also
said it was adjusting its profit outlook downward as it trims
back its herbicide business overall.

Shares fell more than 8 percent to the lowest levels in
more than three years after the company said it now expects
fiscal-year 2010 earnings per share to be $2.40 to $2.60 on an
ongoing basis, and $2.15 to $2.41 on an as-reported basis.

Monsanto shares are down more than 40 percent from a year
ago.

Stock Market Basics

(Reporting by Carey Gillam, Edited by Rene Pastor)

Monsanto set to help fight spreading “super-weeds”