A real millennium product

Two years ago, the US biotechnology giant Monsanto was predicting that its genetically modified crops would help launch a sustainability revolution in world agriculture. As it happened, the company's multi-billion dollar investment in building a position in the GM business had left it overstretched, and its stock was also overvalued. To cap it all, its attempt to shove GM soya into Europe had provoked a spectacular public backlash - making it, as we wrote in mid-1998, a front-runner for top prize for the most spectacular strategic business misjudgement of the 1990s. Today, its growth projections badly dented and share price well down, Monsanto is in the throes of a merger with Pharmacia & Upjohn. Other biotechnology businesses have also paid heavily for Monsanto's mistakes.

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