farmers -- and, quite likely, the federal government -- Monsanto brings to mind the hard-line tactics of a monopolist, a company that allegedly strong-arms customers into using its seed traits, and forces rivals into licensing agreements that prevent their twining of genes onto those branded by Monsanto. At least that's the contention of DuPont ( DD), among others, which has filed a civil lawsuit against the St. Louis agricultural company, alleging antitrust violations. Monsanto, of course, disputes these characterizations: Its domination of the seed industry, it says, has occurred because of its huge investment in developing genetically engineered crop technologies, and the superior seeds that have resulted. And to environmentalists and consumer advocates, Monsanto is a corporate goliath that has succeeded in bringing dangerous technologies into widespread use by farmers around the world. Dangerous, they say, because of the hegemony one company appears to have won over the food supply. And dangerous, others claim, because genetically engineered, mono-culture crops could both destabilize ecologies and, ironically enough, wind up harming agricultural productivity. (One recent worry involves an Alfalfa seed developed by Monsanto, which some say could contaminate nearby crops. A legal injunction has blocked the company from selling the seeds, pending the completion of an environmental impact study. The case is now on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court.)
And then there are the questions concerning stock valuation raised by Monsanto management's mea culpa on Wednesday. During a conference call to discuss another disappointing quarter, executives admitted that the financial goals they'd targeted through 2012 were, in the end, unrealistic. That's a lot of controversy for one company. Which brings to mind another question, which we now pose to readers of TheStreet: Do the various criticisms of Monsanto -- whether anti-competitive, consumer-oriented or environmental -- impact in any way your desire to own shares of this hotly debated company? Take our poll below to see the consensus of TheStreet, and don't forget to leave a comment regarding your feeling about arguably the world's most conroversial company.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York