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Photograph: kannada.forum / https://www.flickr.com/photos/131465613@N04/

Seldom has a US company been so controversial.

For years environmental activists have railed against the business practices of Monsanto, a leading practitioner of genetic modification based in St Louis in the mid-western US state of Missouri.

Nonetheless, Germany's Bayer has offered 66 billion dollars to acquire agrochemical giant Monsanto, one of the world's largest producers of seeds and pesticides.

With its genetic manipulation efforts, patent infringement lawsuits, far-reaching industry position and powerful lobbying influence, Monsanto has become enemy number one for German opponents of the TTIP free trade agreement currently being negotiated.

In Germany, Monsanto is seen as the purveyor of "franken-corn" (as in the fictional monster of Frankenstein), while in the US its reputation is not quite so negative.

The US agriculture and food industry likes to portray itself as an innovative provider concerned with one day producing enough food for the entire world.

That is not possible with conventional farming and production methods, companies like Monsanto argue. Despite the criticism, the company describes sustainable agriculture as a core concern.

Things haven't been going especially well for Monsanto recently. In the quarter ending in February, revenue fell 13.5 per cent to 4.5 billion dollars when compared to the same period a year before.

Profit sank from 1.45 billion dollars to 1.06 billion dollars. In the last year the stock value of the company, which operates in 66 countries and has approximately 21,200 employees, fell almost 20 per cent.

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