Monsanto’s in the weeds


May 15, 2019

Today, West Texas turns to an entrepreneurial hub, and Indian potato farmers give Pepsi the rub, but first…
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Monsanto forced to pay California couple $2B in Roundup suit

A jury in Oakland, California, awarded an unprecedented $2.055B sum to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a California couple who say their cancer was caused by long-term exposure to Monsanto’s weed killer, Roundup.

A little Roundup roundup for ya

From home gardens to crop lines, Roundup has become the world’s most widely used weed slayer — profiting $892m in 2017 alone. 

For years, we’ve watched our parents spray the front-yard uglies with that green Roundup spray bottle. But it’s not the branding that poisons the weeds, it’s the herbicide’s secret ingredient, glyphosate.

But over the years, Monsanto’s flagship weed supremacist has been suspected of fighting many organisms in its path — moonlighting as a multipurpose poison: herbicide by day, humanicide by night… and, well, also day.

‘There isn’t reliable scientific evidence’ — Bayer

Bayer, which acquired the pesticide giant last year, has repeatedly declared that the chemical is safe, and health regulators worldwide have (sort of) come to the same conclusion.

But the Pilliods, who doused their Northern California property with Roundup for decades before both being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma between 2011 and 2015, disagree.

So do the 2 San Francisco men who collectively received $158m after claiming Roundup contributed to their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And what about the thousands of additional lawsuits currently backlogged in state and federal courts for similar reasons?

The root of this weed goes deeper: In 2017, court documents suggested Monsanto had ghostwritten research, later credited to academics/regulators, claiming glyphosate was indeed not carcinogenic — making it really hard to be unbiased here, Monsanto…

A giant in the weeds

The Pilliods’ verdict includes more than $55m in compensatory damages to the couple and $2B in punitive damages (a billion each). In other words, the courts were itchin’ to punish some pests themselves.

But this isn’t Monsanto’s first Roundup rodeo, and they’re already appealing the Pilliods’ payout — which could sharply reduce the payout or even overturn the ruling.

Weed killer? More like buzzkiller.

Give them my pest
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PepsiCo ‘Lay’s’ down its lawsuit against Indian potato farmers

PepsiCo may have met its mash: The consumer packaged goods powerhouse has dropped its intellectual property lawsuit accusing Indian farmers of growing its patented potatoes, CBS reports

The Lay’s owner had created a unique, low-moisture type of spud designed specially for its classic chips — then later filed claims against subsistence farmers in Gujarat for infringing upon its potato rights, seeking payments of $143k from each farmer. 

David and Goliath, but with potatoes

In response, the All India Farmers’ Forum (AIFF) accused PepsiCo of bullying small-time producers, citing the Farmers Rights Act 2001, which allows “farmers to save, use, sow, exchange or sell farm produce as long as they do not sell branded seed.” 

The AIFF also called for a national boycott of PepsiCo products.

The organization called PepsiCo’s legal concession a “significant victory” in the fight to protect small-fry farmers, but is still demanding that PepsiCo “come clear and walk the talk or brace for more intense protests.”

» Taters gonna tate

Look, Ma — The Hustle’s on TV!

Hey Hustle readers, we’ve got some exciting news to share… 

Our very own Wes “This moustache was made for TV” Schlagenhauf is bringing The Hustle’s hard-hitting business news to life on video every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 pm ET in partnership with Newsy — and he’s lookin’ suavé doing it.

Be sure to check him out here, and stay tuned for more to come.

The fracking boom transformed West Texas into a hub of deadly opportunity

Until recently, US Highway 285 was filled with little more than potholes and tumbleweeds.

But, thanks to gushing growth in the Permian Basin fracking industry, the dusty stretch of West Texas highway is now choked with successful entrepreneurs — and the constant risk of death.

An oasis of opportunism

About 10 years ago, technological advancements in fracking made it possible to access vast deposits of previously unreachable oil. 

America transformed from an oil importer to one of the world’s largest exporters — and West Texas dirt became some of the most valuable in the world. 

Today, the Permian Basin’s 449 rigs (22% of the world’s active oil rigs) have attracted thousands of workers to the remote, rural region.

Oil money drips down

High oil worker salaries (which often exceed $100k) and limited local infrastructure have birthed an entire secondary economy in the region. 

On the side of the highway, entrepreneurs sell food, coffee, and clothes, and supply lodging to thousands of commuting oil workers. Wait staff are in such high demand that they often make $15/hour at local fast food restaurants — more than they’d earn in Manhattan.

Since the area’s few motels charge up to $500 a night, entrepreneurs built “man camps” and charge $36 a night for bunks in giant, 1,200-bed dormitories. 

But the explosion of economic activity on 285 comes at a steep cost: Vehicle crashes in the area have risen 300% in the past decade.

» Well, oil be damned
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Comcast sells Hulu stake to Disney — oh good, now it owns even more entertainment

Comcast Corp. has agreed to sell its 33% stake in Hulu to Disney in 5 years, making the house of mouse the streaming service’s full owner.

Per the agreement, Comcast can sell the company at a valuation of at least $27.5B. Depending on how the next 5 years goes it could be more.

Apparently 21st Century Fox wasn’t good enough

After acquiring 21st Century Fox, Disney was forced to sell the 21 regional sports networks it received to Sinclair Broadcasting.

The Justice Department made them sell the acquired RSNs in fear of the giant becoming too dominant for the little guys (too late). A week later, Disney takes full ownership of a top-tier streaming network.

Disney’s lookin’ to Netflix and kill

According to Axios, while the stake won’t officially transfer until 2024, Disney will gain full operational control of the streaming service effective immediately.

The move to own Hulu is part of Disney’s long-term play to build a streaming network to remedy Netflix’s all-out streaming platform domination… and let’s not forget that looming Disney Plus launch date.

   @ Me Anything
Wes Schlagenhauf, News Writer at The Hustle
@wesschlagenhauf

What’s better than owning one massive streaming platform? — You know the answer…
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» Break up Disney
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“I’m a Malaysian who fell in love with a Zimbabwean 11 years ago. One year in, got engaged but didn’t have money for the wedding. Launched an e-book on Twitter marketing 2 months before the wedding. Broke even in 6 minutes, made a profit in 27 minutes, and accidentally became a social media thought leader with invitations to collaborate from NBA star Tracy McGrady, Brian Tracy, and Paula Abdul. We even made enough to fund our honeymoon. That was the spark of our entrepreneurial journey and since then, we have grown that into both a corporate consultancy servicing clients like McDonald’s and Fujitsu, while maintaining a presence in the info-publishing niche. Our biz story is a love story :).”

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