Monsanto
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Monsanto
Monsanto Company Inc.
Public
Traded as NYSEMON
Industry Agribusiness
Founded September 26, 2000; 17 years ago (2000-09-26)
Founder John Francis Queeny
Headquarters Creve Coeur, Missouri, U.S.
Key people
Hugh Grant
(Chairman, President and CEO)[1]
Products Herbicides, pesticides, crop seeds, GMOs
Revenue DecreaseUS$13.5 billion (2016)[2]
DecreaseUS$2.38 billion (2016)[2]
DecreaseUS$1.32 billion (2016)[2]
DecreaseUS$19.73 billion (2016)[2]
Number of employees
Decrease 20,800 (2017)[2]
Website www.monsanto.com

Monsanto Company is a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is headquartered in Creve Coeur, Greater St. Louis, Missouri. Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide.

Monsanto has agreed to accept Bayer's offer to purchase the company for $66 billion ($128/share) in September 2016, and the deal is currently pending regulatory approval.[3][4]

Overview

Monsanto has been involved in research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation and the first mass-produced light-emitting diodes (LEDs)[5][1] in addition to its work on genetic engineering.

Monsanto was one of four groups to introduce genes into plants (1983),[6] and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops, (1987). It was one of the top 10 U.S. chemical companies until it divested most of its chemical businesses between 1997 and 2002, through a process of mergers and spin-offs that focused the company on biotechnology.

Monsanto was one of the first companies to apply the biotechnology industry business model to agriculture, using techniques developed by biotech drug companies.[7]:2-6 In this business model, companies recoup R&D expenses by exploiting biological patents.[8][9][10][11]

Monsanto's roles in agricultural changes, biotechnology products and lobbying of government agencies and roots as a chemical company have surrounded the company in controversies. The company once manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange and recombinant bovine growth hormone. Its seed patenting model was criticized as biopiracy and a threat to biodiversity.[12][13][14]

History

"Old" Monsanto

Monsanto Company Inc.
Industry Chemicals, Biotechnology, Pharmaceuticals
Fate
Founded 1901; 116 years ago (1901)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Founder John Francis Queeny
Website www.monsanto.com

1901 to WWII

In 1901 Monsanto was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, as a chemical company.[15] The founder was John Francis Queeny, a 30-year veteran of the nascent pharmaceutical industry. He funded the firm with his own money and capital from a soft drink distributor. He used his wife's maiden name for the company. The company's first products were commodity food additives, such as the artificial sweetener saccharin, caffeine and vanillin.[16]:6[17][18][19][20]

Monsanto expanded to Europe in 1919 in a partnership with Graesser's Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr, Wales. The venture produced vanillin, aspirin and its raw ingredient salicylic acid and later rubber processing chemicals. In the 1920s, Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals such as sulfuric acid and PCBs. Queeny's son Edgar Monsanto Queeny took over the company in 1928. In 1926 the company founded and incorporated a town called Monsanto in Illinois (now known as Sauget). It was formed to provide minimal regulation and low taxes for Monsanto plants at a time when local jurisdictions had most of the responsibility for environmental rules. It was renamed in honor of Leo Sauget, its first village president.[21]

In 1935, Monsanto bought the Swann Chemical Company in Anniston, Alabama, and thereby entered the business of producing PCBs.[22][23][24]

In 1936, Monsanto acquired Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio, to acquire the expertise of Charles Allen Thomas and Carroll A. Hochwalt. The acquisition became Monsanto's Central Research Department.[25]:340-341 Thomas spent the rest of his career at Monsanto, serving as President (1951-60) and Board Chair (1960-65). He retired in 1970.[26] In 1943, Thomas was called to a meeting in Washington, DC, with Leslie Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project, and James Conant, president of Harvard University and chairman of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC).[27] They urged Thomas to become co-director of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos with Robert Oppenheimer, but Thomas was reluctant to leave Dayton and Monsanto.[27] He joined the NDRC, and Monsanto's Central Research Department began to conduct related research.[28]:vii To that end, Monsanto operated the Dayton Project, and later Mound Laboratories, and assisted in the development of the first nuclear weapons.[27]

Post-WWII

In 1946, Monsanto developed and marketed "All" laundry detergent, which they sold to Lever Brothers in 1957.[29] In 1947, its styrene factory was destroyed in the Texas City Disaster.[30] In 1949, Monsanto acquired American Viscose from Courtaulds. In 1954, Monsanto partnered with German chemical giant Bayer to form Mobay and market polyurethanes in the United States.[31]

Monsanto began manufacturing DDT in 1944, along with some 15 other companies.[32] This insecticide was critical to the fight against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Due to DDT's toxicity, it was banned in the United States in 1972. In 1977, Monsanto stopped producing PCBs; Congress banned PCB production two years later.[33][34]

1960s and 1970s

In the mid-1960s, William Standish Knowles and his team invented a way to selectively synthesize enantiomers via asymmetric hydrogenation. This was the first method for the catalytic production of pure chiral compounds.[35] Knowles' team designed the "first industrial process to chirally synthesize an important compound" -- L-dopa, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease.[36] In 2001, Knowles and Ry?ji Noyori won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In the mid-1960s, chemists at Monsanto developed the Monsanto process for making acetic acid, which until 2000 was the most widely used production method. In 1964, Monsanto chemists invented AstroTurf (initially ChemGrass).[37]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Monsanto was a major producer of Agent Orange for United States Armed Forces operations in Vietnam.[38]:6 In 1968, it became the first company to start mass production of (visible) light-emitting diodes (LEDs), using gallium arsenide phosphide. From 1968 to 1970, sales doubled every few months. Their products (discrete LEDs and seven-segment numeric displays) became industry standards. The primary markets then were electronic calculators, digital watches and digital clocks.[39] Monsanto became a pioneer of optoelectronics in the 1970s. Between 1968 and 1974, the company sponsored the PGA Tour event in Pensacola, Fla., which was renamed the Monsanto Open.

In 1974, Harvard University and Monsanto signed a 10-year research grant to support the cancer research of Judah Folkman, which became the largest such arrangement ever made; medical inventions arising from that research were the first for which Harvard allowed its faculty to submit patent application.[40][41]

1980 to 1989: Becoming an agribiotech

Monsanto scientists were among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, publishing their results in 1983.[6] Five years later the company conducted the first field tests of genetically modified crops. Increasing involvement in agricultural biotechnology dates from the installment of Richard Mahoney as Monsanto's CEO in 1983.[15] This involvement increased under the leadership of Robert Shapiro, appointed CEO in 1995, leading ultimately to the disposition of product lines unrelated to agriculture.[15]

In 1985, Monsanto acquired G. D. Searle & Company, a life sciences company that focused on pharmaceuticals, agriculture and animal health. In 1993, its Searle division filed a patent application for Celebrex,[42][43] which in 1998 became the first selective COX-2 inhibitor to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[44] Celebrex became a blockbuster drug and was often mentioned as a key reason for Pfizer's acquisition of Monsanto's pharmaceutical business in 2002.[45]

1990 to 1999: Moving into the seed market & industry consolidation

In 1994, Monsanto introduced a recombinant version of bovine somatotropin, brand-named Posilac.[46] Monsanto later sold this business to Eli Lilly and Company.

In 1996, Monsanto purchased Agracetus, the biotechnology company that had generated the first transgenic cotton, soybeans, peanuts and other crops, and from which Monsanto had been licensing technology since 1991.[47]

Monsanto first entered the maize seed business when it purchased 40% of Dekalb in 1996; it purchased the remainder of the corporation in 1998.[48] In 1998, Monsanto purchased Cargill's international seed business, which gave it access to sales and distribution facilities in 51 countries.[48] In 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, a leading global vegetable and fruit seed company, for $1.4 billion.[49] This made it the world's largest conventional seed company.

In 1999 Monsanto sold off NutraSweet Co.[15] In December of the same year, Monsanto agreed to merge with Pharmacia & Upjohn, in a deal valuing the transaction at $27 billion.[50][15] The agricultural division became a wholly owned subsidiary of the "new" Pharmacia; Monsanto's medical research division, which included products such as Celebrex.[51]

"Old" Monsanto overview

"New" Monsanto

2000 to 2009: Birth of the "new" Monsanto

In 2000: Pharmacia spun off its agro-biotech subsidiary into a new company,[15] the "new Monsanto".[52] Monsanto agreed to indemnify Pharmacia against potential liabilities from judgments against Solutia. As a result, the new Monsanto continued to be a party to numerous lawsuits over the prior Monsanto. Pharmacia was bought by Pfizer in 2003.[53][54])

In 2005 Monsanto acquired Emergent Genetics and its Stoneville and NexGen cotton brands. Emergent was the third largest U.S. cotton seed company, with about 12% of the U.S. market. Monsanto's goal was to obtain "a strategic cotton germplasm and traits platform."[55] The vegetable seed producer Seminis was purchased for $1.4 billion.[56]

In June, 2007, Monsanto purchased Delta and Pine Land Company, a major cotton seed breeder, for $1.5 billion.[57] As a condition for approval from the Department of Justice, Monsanto was obligated to divest its Stoneville cotton business, which it sold to Bayer, and to divest its NexGen cotton business, which it sold to Americot.[58] Monsanto also exited the pig-breeding business by selling Monsanto Choice Genetics to Newsham Genetics LC in November, divesting itself of "any and all swine-related patents, patent applications, and all other intellectual property".[59]:108 In 2007, Monsanto and BASF announced a long-term agreement to cooperate in the research, development, and marketing of new plant biotechnology products.[60][61]

In 2008, Monsanto purchased Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for EUR546 million,[62] and sold its POSILAC bovine somatotropin brand and related business to Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly & Co, in August for $300 million plus "additional contingent consideration".[63]

2010 to present day: Further growth, Syngenta & Bayer

In 2012 Monsanto purchased for $210 million Precision Planting Inc., a company that produced computer hardware and software designed to enable farmers to increase yield and productivity through more precise planting.[64]

In 2013 Monsanto purchased San Francisco-based Climate Corp for $930 million.[65] Climate Corp. makes local weather forecasts for farmers based on data modelling and historical data; if the forecasts were wrong, the farmer was compensated.[66]

In 2015 Monsanto tried to acquire Swiss agro-biotechnology rival, Syngenta, for US$46.5 billion, but failed.[67] In 2015 Monsanto was the world's biggest supplier of seeds, controlling 26% of the global seed market (Du Pont was second with 21%).[68] Monsanto is the only manufacturer of white phosphorus for military use in the US.[69]

In May 2016, Bayer offered to buy Monsanto for US$65 billion.[70][71] A bid of $66 billion was accepted.[72]

"New" Monsanto overview

Products and associated issues

Current products

Glyphosate herbicides

Following its 1970 introduction, Monsanto's last commercially relevant United States patent on the herbicide glyphosate (brand name RoundUp) expired in 2000. Glyphosate has since been marketed by many agrochemical companies, in various solution strengths and with various adjuvants, under dozens of tradenames.[90][91][92][93] As of 2009, glyphosate represented about 10% of Monsanto's revenue.[94] Roundup-related products (which include genetically modified seeds) represented about half of Monsanto's gross margin.[95]

Crop seed

As of 2015, Monsanto's line of seed products included corn, cotton, soy and vegetable seeds.

Row crops

Many of Monsanto's agricultural seed products are genetically modified, such as for resistance to herbicides, including glyphosate and dicamba. Monsanto calls glyphosate-tolerant seeds Roundup Ready. Monsanto's introduction of this system (planting glyphosate-resistant seed and then applying glyphosate once plants emerged) allowed farmers to increase yield by planting rows closer together.[96] Without it, farmers had to plant rows far enough apart to allow the control of post-emergent weeds with mechanical tillage.[96] Farmers widely adopted the technology - for example over 80% of maize (Mon 832), soybean (MON-Ø4Ø32-6), cotton, sugar beet and canola planted in the United States are glyphosate-tolerant. Monsanto developed a Roundup Ready genetically modified wheat (MON 71800) but ended development in 2004 due to concerns from wheat exporters about rejection of GM wheat by foreign markets.[97]

Two patents were critical to Monsanto's GM soybean business; one expired in 2011 and the other in 2014.[98] The second expiration meant that glyphosate resistant soybeans became "generic".[96][99][100][101][102] The first harvest of generic glyphsate-tolerant soybeans came in 2015.[103] Monsanto broadly licensed the patent to other seed companies that include glyphosate resistance trait in their seed products.[104] About 150 companies have licensed the technology,[105] including competitors Syngenta[106] and DuPont Pioneer.[107]

Monsanto invented and sells genetically modified seeds that make a crystalline insecticidal protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt. In 1995 Monsanto's potato plants producing Bt toxin were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, following approval by the FDA, making it the first pesticide-producing crop to be approved in the United States.[108] Monsanto subsequently developed Bt maize (MON 802, MON 809, MON 863, MON 810), Bt soybean[109] and Bt cotton.

Monsanto produces seed that has multiple genetic modifications, also known as "stacked traits" -- for instance, cotton that make one or more Bt proteins and is resistant to glyphosate. One of these, created in collaboration with Dow Chemical Company, is called SmartStax. In 2011 Monsanto launched the Genuity brand for its stacked-trait products.[110]

As of 2012, the agricultural seed lineup included Roundup Ready alfalfa, canola and sugarbeet; Bt and/or Roundup Ready cotton; sorghum hybrids; soybeans with various oil profiles, most with the Roundup Ready trait; and a wide range of wheat products, many of which incorporate the nontransgenic "clearfield" imazamox-tolerant[111] trait from BASF.[112]

In 2013 Monsanto launched the first transgenic drought tolerance trait in a line of corn hybrids branded DroughtGard.[113] The MON 87460 trait is provided by the insertion of the cspB gene from the soil microbe Bacillus subtilis; it was approved by the USDA in 2011[114] and by China in 2013.[115]

The "Xtend Crop System" includes seed genetically modified to be resistant to both glyphosate and dicamba, and a herbicide product including those two active ingredients.[116] In December 2014, the system was approved for use in the US. In February 2016, China approved the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend system.[117] The lack of European Union approval led many American traders to reject the use of Xtend soybeans over concerns that the new seeds would become mixed with EU-approved seeds, leading Europe to reject American soybean exports.[118]

India-specific issues

In 2009, Monsanto scientists discovered insects that had developed resistance to the Bt Cotton planted in Gujarat. Monsanto communicated this to the Indian government and its customers, stating that "Resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important. Among the factors that may have contributed to pink bollworm resistance to the Cry1Ac protein in Bollgard I in Gujarat are limited refuge planting and early use of unapproved Bt cotton seed, planted prior to GEAC approval of Bollgard I cotton, which may have had lower protein expression levels."[119] The company advised farmers to switch to its second generation of Bt cotton - Bolguard II - which had two resistance genes instead of one.[120] However, this advice was criticized: "an internal analysis of the statement of the Ministry of Environment and Forests says it 'appears that this could be a business strategy to phase out single gene events [that is, the first-generation Bollgard I product] and promote double genes [the second generation Bollgard II] which would fetch higher price.'"[121]

Monsanto's GM cotton seed was the subject of NGO agitation because of its higher cost. Indian farmers crossed GM varieties with local varieties, using plant breeding, violating their agreements with Monsanto.[122] In 2009, high prices of Bt Cotton were blamed for forcing farmers of Jhabua district into debt when the crops died due to lack of rain.[123]

Vegetables

In 2012 Monsanto was the world's largest supplier of non-GE vegetable seeds by value, with sales of $800M. 95% of the research and development for vegetable seed is in conventional breeding. The company concentrates on improving flavor.[56] According to their website they sell "4,000 distinct seed varieties representing more than 20 species".[124] Broccoli, with the brand name Beneforté, with increased amounts of glucoraphanin was introduced in 2010 following development by its Seminis subsidiary.[125]

Former products

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Until it ended production in 1977, Monsanto was the source of 99% of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used by U.S. industry.[34] They were sold under brand names such as Aroclor and Santotherm; the name Santotherm is still used for non-chlorinated products.[126][127]:396 PCBs are a persistent organic pollutant, and cause cancer in both animal and humans, among other health effects.[128] PCBs were initially welcomed due to the electrical industry's need for durable, safer (than flammable mineral oil) cooling and insulating fluid for industrial transformers and capacitors. PCBs were also commonly used as stabilizing additives in the manufacture of flexible PVC coatings for electrical wiring and in electronic components to enhance PVC heat and fire resistance.[129] As transformer leaks occurred and toxicity problems arose near factories, their durability and toxicity became recognized as serious problems. PCB production was banned by the U.S. Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.[34][130][131]

Agent Orange

Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and eight other chemical companies, made Agent Orange for the U.S. Department of Defense.[38]:6 It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".[132]

Bovine somatotropin

Monsanto developed and sold recombinant bovine somatotropin (also known as rBST and rBGH), a synthetic hormone that increases milk production by 11-16% when injected into cows.[133][134] In October 2008, Monsanto sold this business to Eli Lilly for $300 million plus additional considerations.[135]

The use of rBST remains controversial with respect to its effects on cows and their milk.[136]

In some markets, milk from cows that are not treated with rBST is sold with labels indicating that it is rBST-free: this milk has proved popular with consumers.[137] In reaction to this, in early 2008 a pro-rBST advocacy group called "American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology" (AFACT),[138] made up of dairies and originally affiliated with Monsanto, formed and began lobbying to ban such labels. AFACT stated that "absence" labels can be misleading and imply that milk from cows treated with rBST is inferior.[137]

Non-products

Terminator seeds

Genetic use restriction technology, colloquially known as "terminator technology", produces plants with sterile seeds. This trait would prevent the spread of those seeds into the wild. It also would prevent farmers from planting seeds they harvest, requiring them to purchase seed for every planting, allowing the company to enforce its licensing terms via technology. Farmers have been buying hybrid seeds for generations, instead of replanting their harvest, because second-generation hybrid seeds are inferior. Nevertheless, most seed companies contract only with farmers who agree not to plant harvested seeds.

Terminator technology has been developed by governmental labs, university researchers and companies.[139][140][141] The technology has not been used commercially.[142][143] Rumors that Monsanto and other companies intended to introduce terminator technology caused protests, for example in India.[144][145]

In 1999, Monsanto pledged not to commercialize terminator technology.[142][146] The Delta and Pine Land Company intended to commercialize the technology,[141] but D&PL was acquired by Monsanto in 2007.[147]

GM wheat

Monsanto suspended development on glyphosate-tolerant wheat due to concerns over market reaction in Europe.

Litigation

Monsanto is notable for its involvement in high-profile lawsuits, as both plaintiff and defendant. It defended lawsuits mostly over its products' health and environmental effects. Monsanto used the courts to defend its patents, particularly in agricultural biotechnology, as have other companies in the field, such as Dupont Pioneer[148][149] and Syngenta.[150]

Controversies

Argentina

Argentina approved Roundup Ready soy in 1996. Between 1996 and 2008 soy production grew from 14 million acres to 42 million acres.[151] The growth was driven by Argentine investors' interest in export markets.[151] The consolidation led to a decrease in production of many staples such as milk, rice, maize, potatoes and lentils. As of 2004 about 150,000 small farmers had left the countryside; including 50% 2009 in the Chaco region.[151][152][153]

The Guardian reported that a Monsanto representative had said, "any problems with GM soya were to do with use of the crop as a monoculture, not because it was GM. If you grow any crop to the exclusion of any other you are bound to get problems."[152]

In 2005 and 2006, Monsanto attempted to enforce its patents on soymeal imported into Spain from Argentina by having Spanish customs officials seize the soymeal shipments. This has been an attempt made by Monsanto to put pressure on the Argentinian government for allowing them to enforce their seed patents in Argentina as well.[154]

In 2013 environmentalist groups objected to a Monsanto corn seed conditioning facility in Malvinas Argentinas, Córdoba. Neighbours objected to the risk of environmental impact. Court rulings supported the project,[155] but environmentalist groups organised demonstrations and opened an online petition for the subject to be decided in a popular referendum.[156] The court rulings stipulated that while construction could continue, the facility could not begin operating until the environmental impact report required by law had been duly presented.[157]

In 2016 Monsanto reached an agreement with Argentina's government on soybean seed royalty payments. Monsanto agreed to give the Argentine Seed Institute (Inase) oversight over crops grown from Monsanto's Intacta genetically modified soybean seeds. Before the agreement Argentine farmers generally avoided royalties by using seeds from previous harvests or purchased from non-registered suppliers. Inase agreed to delegate testing to grain exchanges. About 6 million sample tests were to be conducted annually. Seeds that appear to be GMOs may be tested again using a polymerase chain reaction test.[158]

Brazil

Brazil is the second largest producer of GMO soy.[159] Expanding soy cultivation led to large-scale deforestation and displacement of small-scale rural farmers.[160]Brazil approved GM crops in 1998, but advocacy groups successfully sued to overturn the approval.[161] In 2003 Brazil allowed a one-year exemption when GM soy was found in fields planted in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.[161] This was a controversial decision, and in response, the Landless Workers' Movement protested by invading and occupying several Monsanto farm plots used for research, training and seed-processing.[162] In 2005 Brazil passed a law creating a regulatory pathway for GM crops. Agriculture minister Roberto Rodrigues stated, "Brazilian soy farmers, who have used cloned or smuggled versions of the biotechnology company's Roundup Ready variety for years, will no longer have to worry about breaking the law or facing legal action from Monsanto as long as regulators approve the seeds for planting."[163]

China

Monsanto was criticized by Chinese economist Larry Lang for controlling the Chinese soybean market, and for trying to do the same to Chinese corn and cotton.[164]

India

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, public attention was drawn to suicides by indebted farmers following crop failures.[165] For example, in the early 2000s, farmers in Andhra Pradesh (AP) were in economic crisis due to high interest rates and crop failures, leading to widespread unrest and farmer suicides.[166] Monsanto was one focus of protests with respect to the price and yields of Bt seed. In 2005, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the Indian regulatory authority, released a study on field tests of certain Bt cotton strains in AP and ruled that Monsanto could not market those strains in AP because of poor yields.[167] At about the same time, the state agriculture minister barred the company from selling Bt cotton seed, because Monsanto refused a request by the state government to provide pay about Rs 4.5 crore (about one million US$) to indebted farmers in some districts, and because the government blamed Monsanto's seeds for crop failures.[168] The order was later lifted.

In 2006, AP tried to convince Monsanto to reduce the price of Bt seeds. Unsatisfied, the state filed several cases against Monsanto and its Mumbai-based licensee, Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds.[169] Research by International Food Policy Research Institute found no evidence supporting an increased suicide rate following the introduction of Bt cotton and that Bt cotton.[170][171] The report stated that farmer suicides predated commercial introduction in 2002 (and unofficial introduction in 2001) and that such suicides had made up a fairly constant portion of the overall national suicide rate since 1997.[171][172] The report concluded that while Bt cotton may have been a factor in specific suicides, the contribution was likely marginal compared to socio-economic factors.[171][172] As of 2009, Bt cotton was planted in 87% of Indian cotton-growing land.[173]

Critics including Vandana Shiva said that the crop failures could "often be traced to" Monsanto's Bt cotton, that the seeds increased farmer indebtedness and argued that Monsanto misrepresented the profitability of their Bt Cotton, causing losses leading to debt.[165][174][175][176] In 2009, Shiva wrote that Indian farmers who had previously spent as little as INR7 (rupees) per kilogram were now paying up to INR17,000 per kilo per year for Bt cotton.[177] In 2012 the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) stated that for the first time farmer suicides could be linked to a decline in the performance of Bt cotton, and advised, "cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers."[178]

In 2004, in response to an order from the Bombay High Court the Tata Institute produced a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2005.[179][180] The survey cited "government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, and lack of access to information related to agriculture as the chief causes for the desperate condition of farmers in the state."[179]

Various studies identified the important factors as insufficient or risky credit systems, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, a downturn in the urban economy which forced non-farmers into farming and the absence of suitable counseling services.[172][181][182] ICAR and CCRI stated that the cost of cotton cultivation had jumped as a consequence of rising pesticide costs, while total Bt cotton production in the five years from 2007 to 2012 had declined.[178]

United Kingdom

Brofiscin Quarry was used as a waste site from about 1965 to 1972 and accepted waste from BP, Veolia and Monsanto.[183][184] A 2005 report by Environmental Agency Wales (EAW) found that the quarry contained up to 75 toxic substances, including heavy metals, Agent Orange and PCBs.[183][185]

In February 2011 Monsanto agreed to help with the costs of remediation, but did not accept responsibility for the pollution.[186][187] In 2011 EAW and the Rhondda Cynon Taf council announced that they had decided to place an engineered cap over the waste mass[188] and stated that the cost would be 1.5 million pounds; previous estimates had been as high as £100 million.[185][189]

United States

PCBs

In the late 1960s, the Monsanto plant in Sauget, Illinois, was the nation's largest producer of PCBs, which remained in the water along Dead Creek there. An EPA official referred to Sauget as "one of the most polluted communities in the region" and "a soup of different chemicals".[190]

In Anniston, Alabama, plaintiffs in a 2002 lawsuit provided documentation showing that the local Monsanto factory knowingly discharged both mercury and PCB-laden waste into local creeks for over 40 years.[191] In 1969 Monsanto dumped 45 tons of PCBs into Snow Creek, a feeder for Choccolocco Creek, which supplies much of the area's drinking water, and buried millions of pounds of PCB in open-pit landfills located on hillsides above the plant and surrounding neighborhoods.[192] In August 2003, Solutia and Monsanto agreed to pay plaintiffs $700 million to settle claims by over 20,000 Anniston residents.[193]

Polluted sites

As of November 2013, Monsanto was associated with 9 "active" Superfund sites and 32 "archived" sites in the US, in the EPA's Superfund database.[194] Monsanto was sued and settled multiple times for damaging the health of its employees or residents near its Superfund sites through pollution and poisoning.[195][196]

GM wheat

In 2013 a Monsanto-developed strain of glyphosate-resistant wheat (a GMO) was discovered on a farm in Oregon, growing as a weed or "volunteer plant". The final Oregon field test had occurred in 2001. As of May 2013 the GMO seed source was unknown. Volunteer wheat from a former test field two miles away was tested and was not found to be glyphosate-tolerant. Monsanto faced penalties up to $1 million over potential violations of the Plant Protection Act. The discovery threatened world-leading US wheat exports, which totaled $8.1 billion in 2012.[197][198] This wheat variety was rarely exported to Europe and was more likely destined for Asia. Monsanto claimed that it had destroyed all the material it held after completing trials in 2004 and it was "mystified" by its appearance.[199] On June 14, 2013, the USDA announced: "As of today, USDA has neither found nor been informed of anything that would indicate that this incident amounts to more than a single isolated incident in a single field on a single farm. All information collected so far shows no indication of the presence of GE wheat in commerce."[200] As of August 30, 2013, while the source of the GM wheat remained unknown, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan had all resumed placing orders.[201]

March Against Monsanto

Protests against Monsanto during the We are fed up!-demonstrations in Germany. "Better Vin Santo than Monsanto."

A worldwide protest against Monsanto and GMOs took place on May 25, 2013.[202] The number of protesters who took part is uncertain; figures of "hundreds of thousands"[203] or "two million"[204] were variously cited.[205] According to organizers, protesters in 436 cities and 52 countries took part.[206][207][208]

Organizers planned a second day of protests in May 2014, and in statement released before the event said that millions of activists would join marches in over 400 cities in 52 countries on six continents.[209] The day of protest took place on May 24.[210][211]

Improper accounting for incentive rebates

From 2009 to 2011, Monsanto improperly accounted for incentive rebates. The actions inflated Monsanto's reported profit by $31 million over the two years. Monsanto paid $80 million in penalties pursuant to a subsequent settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.[212] Monsanto materially misstated its consolidated earnings in response to losing market share of Roundup to generic producers. Monsanto overhauled its internal controls. Two of their top CPAs were suspended and Monsanto was required to hire, at their expense, an independent ethics/compliance consultant for two years.[213]

Alleged ghostwriting controversy

A review of glyphosate's carcinogenic potential by four independent expert panels, with a comparison to the IARC assessment, was published in September 2016. Using emails released in August 2017 by plaintiffs' lawyers who are suing Monsanto, Bloomberg Business Week reported that "Monsanto scientists were heavily involved in organizing, reviewing, and editing drafts submitted by the outside experts." A Monsanto spokesperson responded that Monsanto had provided only non-substantive cosmetic copyediting.[214]

Government relations

United States

Monsanto regularly lobbies the US government with[215] expenses reaching $8.8 million in 2008[216] and $6.3 million in 2011.[217] In comparison, the 20th highest spender, Pfizer, spent $12.9 million.[218] $2 million was spent on matters concerning "Foreign Agriculture Biotechnology Laws, Regulations, and Trade." Some US diplomats in Europe at other times worked directly for Monsanto.[219]

Monsanto made political contributions of $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) (42% to Democrats, 58% to Republicans) and $305,749 in the 2010 election cycle (48% Democrat, 52% Republicans).[220]

California's 2012 Proposition 37 would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products. Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing passage, making it the largest contributor against the initiative. The proposition was rejected by a 53.7% majority.[221] Labeling is not required in the US.[222][223]

In 2009 Michael R. Taylor, food safety expert and former Monsanto VP for Public Policy[224][225][226] became a Senior Advisor to the FDA Commissioner.[227][228]

Monsanto is a member of the Washington D.C based Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the world's largest biotechnology trade association, which provides "advocacy, business development, and communications services."[229][230] Between 2010 and 2011 BIO spent a total of $16.43 million on lobbying.[231][232]

The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund aka Monsanto Citizenship Fund is a political action committee that donated over $10 million to various candidates from 2003-2013.[233][234][235][236][237]

As of October 2013, Monsanto and DuPont Co. continued backing an anti-labeling campaign, spending roughly $18 million. The state of Washington, along with 26 other states, made proposals in November to require GMO labeling.[238]

Revolving door

In the US regulatory environment, many individuals move back and forth between positions in the public and private sectors, including Monsanto. Critics claimed that the connections between the company and the government allowed Monsanto to obtain favorable regulations at the expense of consumer safety.[239][240][241] Supporters of the practice point to the benefits of competent and experienced individuals in both sectors and to the importance of appropriately managing potential conflicts of interest.[242][243]:16-23 The list of such people includes:

United Kingdom

During the late 1990s, Monsanto lobbied to raise permitted glyphosate levels in soybeans and was successful in convincing Codex Alimentarius and both the UK and US governments to lift levels 200 times to 20 milligrams per kilogram of soya.[253]:265 When asked how negotiations with Monsanto were conducted Lord Donoughue, then the Labour Party Agriculture minister in the House of Lords, stated that all information relating to the matter would be "kept secret".[253]:265 During the 24 months prior to the 1997 British election Monsanto representatives had 22 meetings at the departments of Agriculture and the Environment.[253]:266Stanley Greenberg, an election advisor to Tony Blair, later worked as a Monsanto consultant.[253]:266 Former Labour spokesperson David Hill, became Monsanto's media adviser at the lobbying firm Bell Pottinger.[253]:266 The Labour government was challenged in Parliament about "trips, facilities, gifts and other offerings of financial value provided by Monsanto to civil servants", but only acknowledged that Department of Trade and Industry had two working lunches with Monsanto.[253]:267Peter Luff, then a Conservative Party MP and Chairman of the Agriculture Select Committee, received up to £10,000 a year from Bell Pottinger on behalf of Monsanto.[253]:266[254][255]

European Union

In January 2011, Wikileaks documents suggested that US diplomats in Europe responded to a request for help from the Spanish government. One report stated, "In addition, the cables show US diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto. 'In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain's science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention.'"[219][256] The leaked documents showed that in 2009, when the Spanish government's policy approving MON810 was under pressure from EU interests, Monsanto's Director for Biotechnology for Spain and Portugal requested that the US government support Spain on the matter.[219][257][258] The leaks indicated that Spain and the US had worked closely together to "persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws".[219][256] Spain was viewed as a key GMO supporter and a leading indicator of support across the continent.[259][260] The leaks also revealed that in response to an attempt by France to ban MON810 in late 2007, then-US ambassador to France, Craig Roberts Stapleton, asked Washington to "calibrate a targeted retaliation list that [would cause] some pain across the EU," targeting countries that did not support the use of GM crops.[261][262] This activity transpired after the US, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico and New Zealand had brought an action against Europe via the World Trade Organization with respect to the EU's banning of GMOs; in 2006, the WTO had ruled against the EU.[260][263][264]

Monsanto is a member of EuropaBio, the leading biotechnology trade group in Europe. One of EuropaBio's initiatives is "Transforming Europe's position on GM food". It found "an urgent need to reshape the terms of the debate about GM in Europe".[265] EuropaBio proposed the recruitment of high-profile "ambassadors" to lobby EU officials.[265][266][267]

In September 2017 Monsanto lobbyists have been banned from European parliament.[268]

Haiti

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Monsanto donated $255,000 for disaster relief[269] and 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid (non-GM) corn and vegetable seeds worth $4 million.[270] However, a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) rapid assessment of seed supply and demand for the 5 most common food security crops found that the Haitians had enough seed and recommended that imported seeds be introduced only on a small scale.[271] Emmanuel Prophete, head of Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture's Service National Semencier (SNS), stated that SNS was not opposed to the hybrid maize seeds because they at least double yields. Louise Sperling, Principal Researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) told HGW that she was not opposed to hybrids, but noted that most hybrids required extra water and better soils and that most of Haiti was not appropriate for hybrids.

Activists objected that some of the seeds were coated with the fungicides Maxim or thiram. In the United States, pesticides containing thiram are banned in home garden products because most home gardeners do not have adequate protection.[272] Activists alleged that the coated seeds were handled in a dangerous manner by the recipients.[273]

The donated seeds were sold at a reduced price in local markets.[270] However, farmers feared that they were being given seeds that would "threaten local varieties"[269] and an estimated 8,000-12,000 farmers attended a protest of the donation on June 4, 2010, organized by a Haitian farmers' association, the Peasant Movement of Papay, where a small pile of seeds was symbolically burned.[274]

Public relations

Monsanto has engaged in various public relations campaigns to improve its image and to shift public perception of some of its controversial products.[275][276] These include developing covert relationships with scientists such as Richard Doll[277][278][279] and Kevin Folta, as well as overt campaigns such as the jointly-funded website GMO Answers.[280]

Sponsorships

Awards

  • 2008:Monsanto Canada was named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., and was featured in Maclean's news magazine.[290]
  • 2010: Forbes magazine's company of the year for 2009.[244] Swiss research firm Covalence rated Monsanto least ethical[291] of 581 multinational corporations based on their EthicalQuote reputation tracking index which "aggregates thousands of positive and negative news items published by the media, companies, and stakeholders".[292] without attempt to validate sources.[293][294][295]
  • 2013: Science Magazine ranked Monsanto 5th on its 2013 Top Employers list, describing its top attributes as "innovative leader in the industry", "makes changes needed" and "does important quality research".[296]Corporate Responsibility Magazine listed Monsanto as one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens.[84] Monsanto executive Robert Fraley won the World Food Prize for "breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology".[297][298]

Documentaries

See also

References

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Bibliography

  • Forrestal, Dan J. (1977). Faith, Hope & $5000: The Story of Monsanto, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-22784-X.
  • Pechlaner, Gabriela, Corporate Crops: Biotechnology, Agriculture, and the Struggle for Control, University of Texas Press, 2012, ISBN 0292739451
  • Robin, Marie-Monique, The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of the World's Food Supply New Press, 2009, ISBN 1595584269
  • Spears, Ellen Griffith, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town, The University of North Carolina Press, 2014, ISBN 1469611716
  • Shiva, Vandana, Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply South End Press, 2000, ISBN 0896086070

External links


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