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Climate change could be good for those who sell seeds

Monsanto

The entrance sign is seen at the headquarters of Monsanto, at Creve Coeur (St. Louis), Missouri, on April 7, 2014. Monsanto is the world's largest seed supplier. 

Agriculture was one focus of a new report called "Risky Business" that looks at the economic impacts of global warming, and its findings could be good for companies like Monsanto, which sells seeds to farmers around the world.

Global warming will produce winners and losers in farming: If Iowa gets too hot to produce corn, North Dakota will warm up enough to grow it. A company like Monsanto could be a winner.

"If they can solve the problem of developing crops that are resistant to these types of extreme temperatures, they’re going to make a lot of money," says Solomon Hsiang, a Berkeley economist who co-wrote the “Risky Business” report.

Monsanto already benefits from warmer weather. Lewis Ziska from the U.S. Department of Agriculture looked at trends in pesticide use from north to south. The south’s warmer, shorter winters don’t kill off as many weeds and bugs.

"Farmers are, of course, not stupid," Ziska says. "They simply have to use more pesticides to get the same yields."

Monsanto makes a lot of those weed-killers and bug-killers. 

"As the climate of Missouri or Iowa becomes more like the climate of Louisiana, then that’s going to be reflected in terms of the chemical usage," says Ziska.

But pesticides, like antibiotics, tend to become less effective over time, especially when over-used. Monsanto would have to earn its money by creating newer, more-effective chemicals.

 

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.

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