A Public Voice
A Public Voice on Biotechnology and Agriculture
Union of Concerned Scientists
Fall/Winter 1998

Ag Business News

Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc to Form World's Largest Life-Science Company
Hoechst and Rhone-Poulenc, two large European drug companies, have announced intentions to merge. A successful union would create the world's largest life-science company. Like a number of other pharmaceutical and chemical companies, the German and French giants are trying to reposition themselves in the global marketplace as so-called "life-science" companies--with holdings in biotechnology, agricultural chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. A combined Hoechst/Rhone Poulenc would surpass Switzerland's Novartis, also a product of a big merger (Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy), to become the number one global seller of agricultural chemicals--controlling 20% of the $50 billion market. The new company would be second only to Merck in drug sales--accounting for approximately $13 billion in annual sales.

Source: M. Karnitschnig, "Hoechst, Rhone plan world's top 'life science' group," Reuters, 11/25/98, via the Internet.


Leading Global Seed Companies
The global seed trade appears to be headed towards control by giant life-science corporations. In a report last summer, the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) ranked the ten largest seed companies (Table 1) which have emerged from recent buyouts and mergers. The top ten account for 30% of the $23 billion global commercial seed trade.

Monsanto, the dominant ag biotech company in the United States, has moved into the second spot in RAFI's ranking--a result of having gained control of a number of seed companies the past couple of years (Table 2).

Source: RAFI, "Seed industry consolidation: who owns whom?" RAFI Communiqué, Pittsboro, N.C., July/August 1998.

Table 1: World's Top Ten Seed Companies
Company 1997 Seed Revenue
US $Millions
Pioneer Hi-Bred Intl. (US)$1,784
Monsanto (US)$1,320
Novartis (Switzerland)$928
Groupe Limagrain (France)$686
Advanta (UK and Netherlands)$437
AgriBiotech, Inc. (US)$425
Grupo Pulsar/Seminis/ELM (Mexico)$375
Sakata (Japan)$349
KWS AG (Germany)$329
Takii (Japan)$300
Source: RAFI Communiqué, July/August 1998.

Table 2: Monsanto's Estimated Annual
Seed Revenues in US $Millions

Cargill Intl. Seed Division$300
Asgrow & Hartz (combined)$287
Delta & Pine Land$183
Holden's Foundation Seed$35
Plant Breeding Int'l (UK)$26
Stoneville Pedigreed$11.7
Source: RAFI Communiqué, July/August 1998.

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