Larry Robbins, the head of the $11.8 billion Glenview Capital hedge fund invested in Monsanto, the agricultural corporation of selling toxic chemicals, which are bad for people’s health, water supplies, vital crop pollinators and environment. The company also facing federal lawsuits from cancer victims.
You may not think you’re familiar with Monsanto, but you probably eat Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) created by them every day. Monsanto created the first GMO in 1985 but only in the past few years has their use become widespread in our food supply. (How are GMOs created?)
The most common way Monsanto uses GMOs is to artificially manipulate a crop so that it can withstand a specific type of all-purpose poison. They sell both the genetically modified seed as well as the poison. The engineering allows the farmer to blanket the crops in pesticides and while the GMO is unaffected everything else is killed. While there are GMOs for a wide variety of crops Monsanto has focused its attention on several strategic markets, for example 93% of soybeans and 86% of corn are now GMO—and these numbers continue to rise.
There have been over 400 protests in 38 nations will join a grassroots effort called March Against Monsanto. But who is Monsanto and why should you know about them?
Glenview, by the end of June, would own 11 million Monsanto shares, making it the fund’s fourth-largest holding.
In March World Health Organization’s cancer research unit said glyphosate, the active weed-killing ingredient in Monsanto lawn product Roundup, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Since that time, Monsanto shares have been on a general decline, falling about 32 percent to Wednesday’s closing price of $85.34.
They have taken Glenview’s returns with them.
Monsanto is facing two separate federal lawsuits from cancer victims.
One man, a farmworker in California, developed bone cancer years after spraying fields with Roundup, his suit alleges.
Also, a 64-year-old New York woman claims that she developed leukemia after being exposed to Roundup in the 1990s.
If Glenview has not sold any Monsanto shares, its paper loss this year will stand at about $375 million.
Monsanto is just one of Glenview’s losers this year, as other big holdings have also been hard hit. Two of its biggest are AbbVie, down 17 percent, and Thermo Fisher, down 2.4 percent.
Robbins has built his fame and fortune on savvy bets on health care stocks.
But in an ironic twist, last month, two former agricultural workers said that Monsanto’s Roundup gave them cancer.