Some recent reports are suggesting—again!—that Monsanto is withdrawing from business activities in Europe. The opposite is true. We’re actually expanding our operations in the conventional seed business in Europe, and will continue to sell Europe’s only successful commercial biotech crop, our MON810 corn, to farmers in several European countries. But we’ll no longer be pursuing approvals for cultivation of new biotech crops in Europe. Instead, we’ll focus on enabling imports of biotech crops into the EU and expanding our current business, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Monsanto´s business in Europe is very strong and growing. To better serve farmers in Europe, we’ll be investing several hundred million dollars there over a decade to expand our conventional seed production and breeding. In parallel, biotech crops are highly successful in the rest of the world.
Monsanto’s success with conventional crops in Europe
Monsanto has a robust business selling high-quality, conventional corn, oilseed rape and vegetable seeds in Europe, along with crop protection products. Monsanto’s seed business in Europe is already almost entirely conventional seeds and has been for the past several years. We’ve been growing in Europe for the past three years on the strength of our conventional portfolio, and we have bright prospects for continued growth on this strength, particularly in central and eastern Europe.
We plan to invest several hundred million euros in Europe through the end of the decade including €225 million (US$300 million) in corn production plant expansions. This capacity expansion is already underway in France, Hungary, Romania and Turkey, creating more than 150 new full-time jobs and many more seasonal jobs. Another several hundred million dollars in capacity expansion and breeding investments have been earmarked for Eastern Europe.
As part of our ongoing strategic focus on conventional seeds in Europe, we are focusing our R&D in Europe on conventional agriculture and focusing our biotech development activities on other markets.
Biotech adoption in other world areas will benefit from timely EU import approvals
The EU today is effectively a conventional seed market, and we’ve been progressively de-emphasizing cultivation of biotech crops in Europe. This means we are no longer seeking approval to commercialize biotech seeds in the EU. We intend to progressively withdraw pending regulatory files for commercial cultivation of new biotech crops in the EU, subject to discussions with business partners.
We currently sell only one biotech seed product in Europe—a biotech corn modified to be resistant to a destructive pest (European Corn Borer). We sell the seeds and traits successfully in just a few countries but those sales account for less than 1% of the corn under cultivation in the EU, according to the 2012 ISAAA Report.
The EU has not approved a major new biotech product for cultivation since 1998, and currently has suspended the progression of cultivation files. Monsanto has invested millions dollars in biotech R&D in Europe for the past 15 years, including conducting around 400 field trials. The files we intend to withdraw were submitted between three and eight years ago and have been going nowhere fast. Because the costs associated with continued development, including regulatory and breeding efforts, are significant, we’ve decided to shift our research and development efforts to concentrate on our conventional seed business in the EU.
Timely EU import approvals remain important to biotech adopters in other world areas that recognize the safety and benefits of this technology. We will continue to work with EU regulators and other stakeholders to focus on EU import approvals in order to help accelerate adoption in other world areas.