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Embarrassing? BusinessWeek Gets Business Basics WRONG on Most Influential Companies List

By       Message Pamela Drew       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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It's hard to know if it is a human thing, an American thing or just a media tool for promoting sales, but at the end of the year everyone seems to be making lists of the past year's top something. In that spirit it makes perfect sense for Businessweek to name the top companies. It is a subjective measure to select the basis for the ranking and many of the choices are probably arguable depending on your own view of what makes an organization important. Regardless of what measurement they chose use for ranking, from global sales to societal impact, there is one thing that should not be a variable and that is the classification of the business. Arguably many of the clear lines of business classifications have become obsolete as the lines have been blurred, with merger mania. We have seen banks morphed into brokerages and broader financial services, industrial manufactures become diagnostics for health care and media mogul conglomerates, but there vague are umbrella terms to cover those. We accept that broad catchall for what it is, a necessity borne of corporate diversification. Despite that confusion of market segments, the traditional investment guides are able to provide an industry sector and primary SIC code to define the primary business. Take cigarette maker Phillip Morris who acquired KRAFT and a host of other food companies. They renamed themselves Altria group and have much shelf space in the supermarket generating billions in sales from foods in addition to the traditional tobacco lines. Their classification is consumer goods; fair enough. A glance at the profile at investors words lists the main classes and competitors.

Altria Group, Inc. Philip Morris Companies is a holding company whose principal wholly-owned subsidiaries, Philip Morris Incorporated, Philip Morris International Inc., Kraft Foods, Inc., and Miller Brewing Company, are engaged in the manufacture and sale of various consumer products. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company, Philip Morris Capital Corporation, engages in various financing and investment activities. Exchange: NYSE Size: Large-Cap SIC Code: 2111 Competitors: Unilever N.V., Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, Gallaher Group Plc., General Mills, British American Tobacco Industries InvestorGuide Research Links Stock: Altria Group, Inc. Sector: Consumer Goods click here

That doesn't take a lot to identify as Internet research and investor profiles are readily available. Apparently the folks at BusinessWeek don't understand the basics of assigning a business sector class. Contrary to all the SIC codes and classifications made by investor research and Federal ranking agencies the BW editors have stepped into the Orwellian realm of PR and ranked Monsanto as a food company in this year's most influential list.

Monsanto Location: St. Louis

Industry: Food Products

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Annual Sales: $8.6 billion
click here

Monsanto listed as a food company flies in the face of reality. Not that it isn't nice to see the makers of PCB's and Agent Orange get a little notice in American media for their takeover of the chief commodity crops by promoting their genetically engineered seeds to sell in tandem with their herbicides that came off patent a few years ago. It's a brilliant if nefarious marketing strategy and their success as a global force is worthy of note. But a food company? C'mon folks, get the basics right.

Exchange: NYSE

Size: Large-Cap

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SIC Code: 2879

Competitors: Praxair Inc., Rohm and Haas Company, Dow Chemical Co., Dupont E I Nemours & Co., OM Group Inc. InvestorGuide Research Links Stock: Monsanto Company Sector: Basic Materials, Agriculture Industry: Agricultural chemicals, NEC
click here

Agricultural chemicals isn't food. Even narrowing to the agricultural chemical sector omits billion in transactions and subsidiary sales for this calendar year. To take a category as simplistic as food and apply it to one of the world's largest providers of chemicals is sloppy reporting about business by a source that claims to make its business reporting about businesses. There is a world of difference between being a divirsified agribusiness and chemical maker and a food business. There is also a world of difference between reporting actual verified accomplishments and attributing unnamed sources who claim achievements. It seems the BusinessWeek editors didn't mind stretching the fantasy by adding editorial spin in the form of the benefits either.
A study by one nonprofit found that the adoption of Monsanto's insect-protected corn in the Philippines elevated agricultural households above the poverty line.

What group is that and where are the statistics to back up the claim? If there were odds given to naming the source of that complimentary claim my money would be on IRRI.
In the midst of on-going public debate about transgenic rice and its potential contribution to future food security, numerous organizations are developing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) rice for Asia. This includes the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); governments and universities in China, Thailand, Indonesia, USA and Canada; and private companies such as Monsanto (USA). Particularly in the Philippines, IRRI's host country, there is significant opposition to genetic engineering in agriculture, led by a coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Nothing works to promote a corporate agenda like creating an NGO who will partner to speak as the voice of the people. IRRI and Monsanto have gone hand in hand for a decade so it was a wise choice for BusinessWeek to opt for the unattributed source instead of naming a known industry front group. If it is gmo benefits that BusinessWeek really wants to highlight, how about looking in our own back yard. As they correctly noted, America has the vast majority of the global gmo acreage planted and it makes up the bulk of our corn and soy crops. How are America's farmers doing? Not as well as Monsanto. If BusinessWeek is right and Monsanto isn't a chemical company, but a primary food maker for America, shouldn't we look beyond Monsanto's financial benefits, to the rates of illness growing as fast as the gmo acreage. From reflux and food allergies to life threatening disease shouldn't we look to see if there is a connection between redefining the makers of some of the worlds most toxic substances and our diets.

Pamela Drew is a muckraking researcher, writer and producer of the 2006 documentary film Roundup Ready Nation, that focuses on legislation, politics, science and spin surrounding genetically altered foods. Though discussion on the gmo foods has been conspicuously absent from American media, the film has been shown in over 135 countries where consumers do have the right to identify ingredients and choose what they eat.


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Pamela Drew tracks the legislation, politics, science and spin surrounding the genetically altered foods. She is a freelance researcher, writer and documentary film producer living in New York City, where she works with advocacy groups and small (more...)

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