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Monsanto's development and marketing of genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive litigation, political lobbying practices, seed commercialization practices and "strong-arming" of the seed industry have made the company controversial around the world and a primary target of the alter-globalization movement and environmental activists. In 2009 Monsanto came under scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department, investigating whether its activities in the soya-bean markets were breaking anti-trust rules.
Small Brands, Big Owners
What have organic brands Health Valley (cereals), Bearitos (corn chips), Bread Shop (granola) and Celestial Seasonings (tea) have in common? These apparently independent companies are all owned by the Hain Celestial Group
Even though Hain Celestial is an organic giant in its own right, it has even bigger owners. According to research by Paul Glover and Carole Resnick of the Greenstar Food Coop (Ithaca, New York) the company's investors include Philip Morris, Monsanto, Citigroup, Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart and aerospace military contractor Lockheed Martin. And in September 1999 the H. J. Heinz food conglomerate bought a 20% stake in Hain Celestial.
The Hain Celestial Group is a food company whose main focus is natural and organic foods and personal care products. Their products range from herbal teas, offered through their Celestial Seasonings brand to organic free range chickens from the FreeBird brand. They also provide organic, whole grain foods through Arrowhead Mills, founded in 1960 by Frank Ford of Hereford, the seat of Deaf Smith County, west of Amarillo, Texas. The H. J. Heinz Company acquired 19.5% of the company in 1999, but subsequently divested itself of all holdings in 2005. The company assumed its current form in May 2000 through the merger of the Hain Food Group with Celestial Seasonings, Inc.
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Unilever said it has agreed to sell its Plant Breeding International unit to Monsanto Co. for $524 million in cash, the latest deal by St. Louis-based Monsanto to expand in the lucrative seed business. PBI produces and sells crop varieties worldwide and has significant breeding programs for winter wheat, barley, rapeseed oil, beans, peas and potatoes. London-based Unilever's sale of the unit is part of its effort to focus on consumer goods and build its food, home and personal-care products businesses. The deal includes plant breeding operations in Scotland and France and a German affiliate. Monsanto itself agreed in June to be bought by American Home Products Corp. for $39 billion. Monsanto's stock rose $1.81 to close at $55.56 on the NYSE.
160 million times a day, someone somewhere chooses a Unilever product.