This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.
Monsanto is one of the "Big 6" Biotech Corporations, along with BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical Company, Dupont, and Syngenta (so called because they dominate the agricultural input market -- that is, they own the world’s seed, pesticide and biotechnology industries).
In the fiscal year ending in August of 2010, the company reported sales of approximately 10.5 billion dollars and had 27,600 employees. 
Monsanto is perhaps the most controversial of the Big 6 and is considered the mother of agricultural biotechnology. The company produces biotechnology, genomics and herbicides for corn, cotton, oil seeds, and vegetables. It produces genetically altered seeds to tolerate it's flagship product, Roundup. Monsanto also produces Asgrow, DEKALB, Deltapine, and Seminis seeds. Other products have included Agent Orange, the now ubiquitous PCBs, DDT, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Aspartame.
Access Monsanto's corporate rap sheet compiled and written by Good Jobs First here.
- 1 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 2 Overview and History
- 3 Global Pollution and Environmental Impact
- 4 Food Safety Issues
- 4.1 Monsanto Fights State Laws to Label, Regulate GMOs
- 4.2 French Documentary Critiques Monsanto on Biodiversity Issues
- 4.3 Activists Fight for Labels
- 4.4 Roundup Ready Controversy
- 4.5 Terminator Technology
- 4.6 Campaign to Undermine Organic Agriculture
- 4.7 Genetic Pollution, or 'How to Succeed Without Really Trying'
- 4.8 Monsanto, GM Foods, and Health Risks
- 4.9 Labeling Issues, Revolving Doors, rBGH, and Bribery
- 4.10 GM Trees, Grasses, and Wheat
- 5 International
- 6 Global Bully
- 7 Animal Testing
- 8 Media and Public Relations
- 9 Lobbying and Political Contributions
- 10 Notable Quotes
- 11 Petitions
- 12 Personnel
- 13 Contact
- 14 Articles and Resources
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
A list of ALEC Corporations can be found here.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Overview and History
The Monsanto company was created in 1901 by John Francis Queeny (photo) and named after his wife, Olga Mendez Monsanto. Monsanto was originally founded to produce saccharine, an artificial sweetener that at the time was only available in Germany. The company soon expanded into other products including "caffeine, vanillin, aspirin, synthetic rubber and synthetic fibers."
Monsanto was heavily involved in the creation of the first nuclear bomb for the Manhattan Project during WWII via its facilities in Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton Project was headed by Charlie Thomas, Director of Monsanto's Central Research Department. He later became the company's president. Monsanto also operated a nuclear facility for the federal government in Miamisburg, Ohio, called the Mound Project, until the 1980s.
- "In 1967, Monsanto entered into a joint venture with IG Farben. (The) German chemical firm that was the financial core of the Hitler regime, and was the main supplier of Zyklon-B to the German government during the extermination phase of the Holocaust." 
Monsanto was the creator of several attractions in Disney's Tomorrowland. Often they revolved around the the virtues of chemicals and plastics. Its "House of the Future" was constructed entirely of plastic, but biodegradable it was not:
- "After attracting a total of 20 million visitors from 1957 to 1967, Disney finally tore the house down, but discovered it would not go down without a fight. According to Monsanto Magazine, wrecking balls literally bounced off the glass-fiber, reinforced polyester material. Torches, jackhammers, chain saws and shovels did not work. Finally, choker cables were used to squeeze off parts of the house bit by bit to be trucked away."  However, another of its synthetic inventions, Astroturf (fake grass), survives.
Post-WWII Expansion and Move into Biotechnology
Monsanto expanded into producing herbicides after World War II, including the brands Ramrod, Lasso, and (later on) Roundup. In 1985, it acquired the drug company G. D. Searle, which produced aspartame under the brand name NutraSweet. At the time, Searle faced lawsuits related to its Copper-7 intrauterine contraceptive device.
Beginning in the 1980s, Monsanto focused more intensively on agricultural biotechnology. According to research by Good Jobs First, the company initially aimed to develop "crops that would not be damaged when the company's herbicide Roundup was applied to kill weeds," a strategy it continues to pursue today.
The first genetically engineered product made by Monsanto was bovine somatotropin (BST, sold under the name Posilac), a growth hormone given to dairy cows to artificially stimulate milk production. BST was approved by the FDA in 1993 despite protests by consumers and grocery stores.
Monsanto continued its move into biotech with several acquisitions in this period, including Calgene, which produced a controversial genetically modified tomato called the Flavr Savr; and DeKalb Genetics and Cargill, both seed producers.
The company underwent a complicated restructuring in the late 1990s, as a Good Jobs First corporate profile describes:
- "It announced plans to spin off the remainder of its old chemical business into a company called Solutia (which later filed for bankruptcy as a result of legal settlements relating to PCBs); the sweetener business was also sold off. The agriculture and pharmaceuticals businesses merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn in 2000, with the combined company taking the name Pharmacia.
- "Pharmacia then spun off the agricultural business as the new Monsanto (the rest of the company was acquired by Pfizer). During the following years Monsanto focused on the seed business, purchasing regional firms as well as the large fruit and vegetable seed company Seminis; it later bought the large cotton seed company Delta and Pine Land as well."
Global Pollution and Environmental Impact
In the Washington Post article (Jan 1, 2002) "Monsanto Hid Decades Of Pollution PCBs Drenched Ala. Town, But No One Was Ever Told" a grim story of Monsanto's treacherous behavior in Anniston Alabama was revealed. It is summed up in this chilling paragraph: "They also know that for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents -- many emblazoned with warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy" -- show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew."  
According to a 2013 report by Food and Water Watch (FWW), "Monsanto’s day-to-day operations have wreaked havoc on the environment and public health." FWW specifically cites Monsanto's past production of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Monsanto produced about 99 percent of PCBs used by U.S. industry at its plant in Sauget, Illinois until PCB production was banned by Congress in 1976, due to their carcinogenic properties and detrimental effects to the liver, endocrine system, immune system, reproductive system, developmental system, skin, eye and brain. Despite the ban, PCBs continue to be illegally dumped or leaked, and since these chemicals do not break down easily, they continue to cycle through air, water and soil for long periods of time. Thus PCBs continue accumulating in plants and food crops, as well as in fish and other aquatic organisms, which are then ingested by other animals building up higher levels of PCBs as they move up the food chain.
For more see Monsanto's Global Pollution Legacy.
Environmental and Workplace Safety Cases
The following was compiled by Philip Mattera, Research Director and the Director of the Corporate Research Project at Good Jobs First:
- "In 1986 a federal jury in Galveston, Texas found Monsanto guilty of negligence and ordered the company to pay $108 million to the family of a worker who died from leukemia after being exposed to benzene while working at a Monsanto chemical plant. Monsanto had refused to pay workers compensation to the family, insisting that the disease was not work-related. The award was later overturned and the family settled with Monsanto for $6 million."
- "In 1987 a state court jury found Monsanto liable for failing to warn the residents of Sturgeon, Missouri about the risks of a 1979 train accident that spilled chemicals including a small quantity of dioxin. The residents were granted more than $16 million in damages, but the award was later overturned."
- "In 1988 Monsanto agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit that had been brought by a group of workers who charged that their exposure to a rubber additive at the company's plant in Nitro, West Virginia caused them to contract a rare form of bladder cancer."
- "In 2003 Monsanto (which retained liability for some liability matters relating to its old chemical businesses), along with Solutia and Pfizer (which had acquired Pharmacia), agreed to pay some $700 million to settle a lawsuit over the dumping of PCBs in Anniston, Alabama."
- "In 2007 The Guardian reported that it had obtained evidence that dozens of dangerous chemicals related to dioxins, Agent Orange and PCBs were leaking from an unlined quarry in Britain that was among various landfills in the country believed to have been used as dump sites for contractors working for Monsanto decades earlier."
EPA Superfund Sites
Several Monsanto-owned facilities have been deemed "Superfund sites" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sites that are so contaminated or full of hazardous waste that they are placed on the "National Priorities List" for clean up by the EPA Superfund. Many more plants have been deemed hazardous by the EPA and have been ordered cleaned up through other means, such as litigation. Examples of such sites include:
- Monsanto plant in August, Georgia: Superfund-listed in 1984 for arsenic-laden waste and sludge contributing to groundwater contamination
- Monsanto phosphorous plant in Soda Springs, Idaho: Superfund-listed in 1990 for arsenic, cadmium, radium and other toxins
- Monsanto plant in Sauget, Illinois: Two super-funded sites still in clean up after initial 1982 listing; plant produced 99 percent of all PCBs in the United States
- Monsanto PCB plant in Anniston, Alabama: Listed under Superfund Alternative Approach in 2000 for extensive PCB contamination over six decades; city has been characterized as one of the most polluted places in America
- Solutla (former Monsanto) Plant in Nitro, West Virginia: Monsanto and Pharmacia entered into a Consent Order with the EPA in 2004 to perform evaluation and cleanup for release of dioxin from the 2,4,5-T (a component of Agent Orange) manufacturing plant over a 20-year period.
Food Safety Issues
Monsanto Fights State Laws to Label, Regulate GMOs
Vermont Passes First State GMO Labeling Law, Fights Industry Groups
In April 2014, the Vermont legislature passed the first state-level law requiring genetically engineered foods to be labeled, despite Monsanto's threats to sue the state. Upon signing the law, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said, "we believe we have a right to know what’s in the food we buy." According to the Washington Post, Vermont "officials were so sure of a challenge that the measure itself creates a $1.5 million legal defense fund, to be paid for with settlements won by the state."
A suit was brought later in 2014 by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (of which Monsanto has been listed as a member), and other groups. They said they sued the state because the law "places undue burdens on industry and violates the U.S. Constitution," as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Among other things, the suit argues "that genetically modified food labels constitute political, rather than commercial, speech and therefore a decision not to use them carries greater First Amendment protection." In November 2014, the state of Vermont announced that it was asking for the suit to be thrown out, arguing that "the mere fact that there is public debate about the wisdom of genetic engineering does not confer protected status to what is otherwise garden-variety commercial speech."
Monsanto Spends Big and Sues to Fight Local Bans in Hawai'i
Hawai'i has become "ground zero" in the controversy over GMO crops and pesticides, according to some reports.
Hawai'i County banned cultivation of GMOs altogether in November 2013.
Monsanto and Dow Agrosciences sued Maui County over the new law in federal court, just as they threatened to do the day after the election. The suit "asks a judge to immediately prevent the law from taking effect. It also seeks to invalidate the new law, which voters narrowly adopted during last week's election after an intense campaign featuring $8 million in spending by the seed companies against the initiative," as reported by the Associated Press.
For more, see Labeling Issues, Revolving Doors, rBGH, Bribery and Monsanto.
French Documentary Critiques Monsanto on Biodiversity Issues
On March 11 2008, 'The World According to Monsanto', by journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin, was aired on French television. The documentary you won't be seeing on American television revealed that the biotech giant is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity that has served mankind for thousands of years. (right)
Activists Fight for Labels
In May 2012, a broad coalition of food, farm, health, public interest, and environmental groups all over the country, joined by leading organic food companies, raised one million dollars to support the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a citizens' ballot initiative, and other state GMO-labeling campaigns. The money was raised in response to efforts by Monsanto and "California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse" (CALA) to dissuade and confuse more than 90 percent of California voters who want labels on genetically engineered food.
Roundup Ready Controversy
Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" crops have been genetically engineered to allow direct application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate, which lets farmers drench both their cropland with the herbicide to kill nearby weeds without killing the crops. According to Charles M. Benbrook, an expert in the field: "RR soybeans are heavily herbicide dependent."
For more, see Monsanto's Roundup Ready Controversy.
Monsanto came under heavy public fire with the development of their "Terminator Technology", a.k.a. "suicide seeds", known technically as V-GURTs (varietal Genetic Use Restriction Technologies), in which the seeds resulting from the first year's planting would be sterile, thereby forcing farmers around the world in the Roundup Ready System to buy their seed from them every year rather than saving their best seed for the next years planting, a traditional and economical practice. Seed saving has had the benefit of allowing farmers to continually improve the quality of their crops through careful artificial selection.
Fears were also expressed that Monsanto's terminator genes could spread to wild plants. According to the UN Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, "Cross-fertilising V-GURT containing crops may cause considerable effects in neighbouring crop stands and wild relatives.... The fact that in North America, where large stands of GMO varieties are now grown contamination of non-GMO varieties by GMO germplasm has been observed ... suggests that this scenario is a realistic probability."
For more, see Monsanto and Terminator Technology.
Campaign to Undermine Organic Agriculture
Center for Global Food Issues
Monsanto partially funds the anti-organic Center for Global Food Issues, a project of the right-wing Hudson Institute. It is run by Dennis Avery and his son Alex Avery. See also Hudson's anti-environmental and pro-biotech spinmeister Michael Fumento, who secretly took at least $60,000 from Monsanto. See also Bill Berkowitz, Hudson Institute: Home of the indicted and the exposed, Media Transparency, January 18, 2006.
In 1998, Dennis wrote an article that began, "According to recent data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who eat organic and natural foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria (0157:H7)." However, Robert Tauxe, M.D., chief of the food borne and diarrheal diseases branch of the CDC, told GMWatch that there is no such data on organic food production in existence at their centers, and that Avery's claims are "absolutely not true."
Following in his father's steps, Alex distorted a study from the Journal of Food Protection that showed that organic food does not contain more pathogens than conventionally grown, contrary to Avery's claims.
For more, see Monsanto and the Campaign to Undermine Organics.
Monsanto Funding and Shutdown of Organic Farming Research at University of Hawai'i-Manoa
Read the article, "The Silencing of Hector Valenzuela," by Paul Koberstein and Eliza Murphy, Cascadia Times/PR Watch, May 20, 2015.
From the article:
- In 1993, Dr. Hector Valenzuela, then a non-tenured professor of tropical plant and soil science at the University of Hawai`i-Manoa, began a long-term research project to determine whether it’s possible to grow crops in the state without synthetic pesticides. Valenzuela, who in 1990 received his Ph.D. in vegetable crops from the University of Florida, established the first long-term organic farming research project in Hawai`i and the Pacific region. [...]
- But it all came to an end inexplicably in 1998 when Charles Laughlin, then the dean of CTAHR, shut down the organic farming research project. Valenzuela recalls the dean’s exact words: “You can no longer use those plots.” [...]
- “I saw the removal of my field laboratory as an infringement of my academic freedom,” he says. “The college prevented me from exploring new methods of agriculture that challenged the college’s central vision about the future of agriculture in Hawai`i.” [...]
- In June 2010, one month after Hashimoto denied Valenzuela’s academic freedom complaint, CTAHR received a $100,000 donation from Monsanto for scholarships. Then in November 2010, Monsanto donated $20,000 to fund Gene-ius Day, a program at the college that introduces students from grades 4 through 12 to “basic genetics and the function of DNA.” And in September 2011, Monsanto gave an additional $500,000 to the college, bringing its total donations to CTAHR to $620,000 within a period of a little more than a year.
Genetic Pollution, or 'How to Succeed Without Really Trying'
Organic farms are increasingly finding that via cross-pollination their pure food has been contaminated with GM DNA, thus ruining their businesses. "In 2002, Ontario farmer Alex Nurnberg had tests conducted on his 100-ton harvest of organic corn. Twenty tons were found to be contaminated by GMOs, which Nurnberg believes were blown by the wind from the corn on a neighboring farm. 'I was not ready for it. I feel such a wrath about it,' says Nurnberg."
For more see Monsanto, Genetic Pollution and Monopolism.
Monsanto, GM Foods, and Health Risks
Courtesy of Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at Consumer Reports:
- "SUMMARY: Based on the scientific uncertainty surrounding both the molecular characterization of genetically engineered (GE) crops as well as the detection of potential allergenicity, there is more than enough uncertainty to decide to require labeling of foods produced via GE as a risk management measure as a way to identify unintended health effects that may occur post approval. If foods are not labeled as to GE status, it would be very difficult to even identify an unexpected health effect resulting from a GE food."
For more, see Reasons for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods.
Labeling Issues, Revolving Doors, rBGH, and Bribery
An issue of growing concern is the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods . Many have questioned why it is that while consumers in all of Europe and about fifty other countries around the world including Japan, India and China are guaranteed the right to know through strict labeling standards what foods contain GM ingredients, while consumers in the United States are denied this same right. Polls indicate that the great majority of Americans who are aware of the issue want labels.
According to the 2013 Food and Water Watch report on Monsanto, the company has a long history with former and current employees of the U.S. government and public universities. FWW states that there has been a continuous "revolving door" between these public institutions and Monsanto's Board of Directors and senior staff and offers this as an explanation for Monsanto's powerful influence in public policy and research:
- "Monsanto's board members have worked for the EPA, advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and served on President Obama's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. They presided over multiple universities in various senior positions, including South Dakota State university (with whom Monsanto has a significant research agreement), Arizona State's Biodesign Institue and Washington University in St. Louis. Monsanto shares board members with other corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Lockheed Martin and Synthetic Genomics.
- The company's board members have been a part of the International food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council, the Council for Biotechnology Information, the United Kingdom Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences Biological Weapons working group, CropLife International and the Council on Foreign Relations.
- The prevalence of Monsanto's directors in these highly influential positions begs a closer look at how they're able to push the pro-GE agenda within the government and influence public opinion."
Additionally, Monsanto ties to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have also come into question, especially with regards to the FDA's approval of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which has been the subject of much criticism and investigation. In 1994, at the request of Representatives George Brown of California, David Obey of Wisconsin, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Government Accountability Office investigated three FDA employees for conflicts of interest. Michael Taylor, Margaret Miller, and Suzanne Sechen had all been involved in Monsanto's initial rBGH studies and then went on to work for the FDA in positions that were later responsible for review of those same studies.
For more, see Labeling Issues, Revolving Doors, rBGH, Bribery and Monsanto.
GM Trees, Grasses, and Wheat
Food crops are not the only area Monsanto and others have hoped to cash in on with their technology, also with frightening consequences, a range of genetically engineered "designer" trees and forests are also high on their list. From trees modified to withstand Monsanto's Roundup to trees designed with a reduced lignin content (lignin gives trees strength and rigidity) to appeal to the paper making and construction industry to "terminator trees" which don't produce seeds. This has met with fierce resistance from activists and scientists alike, but again, to no avail. Already there has been a contamination issue with the GE papaya tree, the world's first commercially planted genetically engineered tree, which enraged local farmers in Hawaii.
For more, see Monsanto and GM Trees And Grasses.
Monsanto made news in 2004 when it decided to withdraw its GM wheat from the market due to worldwide opposition. Environmental risks of GM wheat. Update: Monsanto has apparently changed its mind and again is attempting to commence cultivation of GM wheat. "'We’re encouraged,' says Monsanto’s Trish Jordan. 'There may be some opportunity for us to re-enter the wheat space'" . This has created a furor with wheat growers, see Definitive Global Rejection of Genetically Engineered Wheat.
For more, see Monsanto and food safety issues.
Fined $1M for Bribery in Indonesia
In 2005, Monsanto was charged with bribing an Indonesian government official by the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the DoJ, a Monsanto employee authorized an Indonesian consulting firm to pay $50,000 to a senior environmental official in order to "incentivize" him to amend the requirement for conducting an environmental impact study before getting approval to grow genetically modified crops. Monsanto agreed to comply with the DoJ investigation and to pay a $1 million penalty.
Brazilian Farmers Seize Monsanto Plant in GM Food Protest
In January 2001, more than 1,000 poor farmers in Brazil "stormed" a Monsanto biotech plant in Nao Me Toque, Brazil. The timing of the protest coincided with a counter-globalization summit, the World Social Forum, which was meeting in Porto Alegre in opposition to the World Economic Forum in Davos. According to a report by the Organic Consumers Association, "the poor farmers yanked out GM corn and soybean crops at the experimental farm on Friday morning. Hundreds of families and their barefoot children took over the research center and warehouses, hanging hammocks and setting up mattresses and boxes of food. They scrawled on the walls, 'The seed of death!' and 'Monsanto is the end of farmers!'" A local leader of the farmers, Solet Compolete, said, "We want to make a statement ... [T]hese seeds trick farmers and create dependency on seeds produced by a big multinational."
Farmers in India are finding that the "biotechnology revolution" is having a devastating effect on their crop lands and personal debt levels, according to Vandana Shiva, leader of the movement to oust Monsanto from India. "In 1998, the World Bank's structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved," Shiva has written.
For more, see Monsanto in India.
Mexican Maize Mischief
Dr Ignacio Chapela, Associate Professor at UC Berkeley, and graduate student David Quist were the target of attack by Monsanto after publishing a paper in the science journal Nature telling of the contamination of indigenous Mexican maize (corn) with GMOs. Monsanto employed the services of a firm called Bivings Group, which used a phony e-mail campaign to persuade the prestigious science journal Nature to retract the paper, the first time in the publication's 133 year history that it had ever retracted a paper.
For more, see Monsanto's Mexican Maize Mischief.
Monsanto, Agent Orange, Dioxins & Plan Colombia
Monsanto was one of the principal companies to supply Agent Orange to the U.S. government during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange is a defoliant that was used in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 to "clear vegetation around military bases and obliterate hiding places and rice paddies used by the Viet Cong." It is made from two herbicide compounds, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, and releases dioxin as a byproduct of the manufacturing process that becomes contained within 2,4,5-T (and in some instances in 2,4-D). Dioxin is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.
The following is excerpted from The Legacy of Agent Orange:
- "Agent Orange was manufactured by Monsanto, Dow Chemicals (manufacturers of napalm), Uniroyal, Hercules, Diamond Shamrock, Thompson Chemical and TH Agriculture. Monsanto [was] the main supplier. The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam.... Monsanto's involvement with the production of dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T dates back to the late 1940s. 'Almost immediately workers started getting sick with skin rashes, inexplicable pains in the limbs, joints and other parts of the body, weakness, irritability, nervousness and loss of libido,' to quote Peter Sills, author of a forthcoming book on dioxins. Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems but once again a cover-up was the order of the day.... Operation Hades, later changed to Operation Ranch Hand, sprayed 6 million acres of forest in Vietnam, 19 million gallons of defoliant. The intention was to turn Vietnam into desert, to cause such destruction that Vietnam would never recover.... The most gruesome legacy caused by spraying Vietnam with dioxin contaminated Agent Orange was that born by the Vietnamese themselves. In a locked room of Tu Du Obstetrical and Gynaecological Hospital in Saigon are rows of formaldehyde-filled jars containing deformed fetuses, a grotesque illustration of Man's inhumanity to Man. The level of poverty in Vietnam prevents the preservation of further examples. Many of the living have fared little better, limb deformities, cancers."
The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the chemical in 2004. The case was dismissed in 2005, and a court upheld the dismissal in 2007.
For more, see Monsanto, Agent Orange, Dioxins and Plan Colombia.
Monsanto's Legal Battles Against Farmers
Monsanto has come under public scrutiny for its role in litigation against individual farmers for patent violation claims on GE seeds. The company has sued many farmers when their GM crops have turned up in the farmer's fields even though the farmers say they never planted them (examples include Percy Schmeiser, the Nelson Farm, Richard Thompson, etc). GE seed contamination is a legitimate concern for which Monsanto has refused to take responsibility. The very nature of plant reproduction means that pollen from crops is carried by the wind or insects to reproduce elsewhere, meaning that any crops grown near GE crops are at risk of GE contamination through cross-pollination.
According to a 2013 report by Food and Water Watch:
- "Monsanto ensures its right to sue farmers through the company’s technology licensing agreement on every bag of GE seed. Any farmer who buys Monsanto’s seed is bound to it, either by signing a contract or simply opening the bag, and it stipulates that farmers must not save any seed (a thousands-year-old tradition) and are responsible for following all procedures included in Monsanto’s Technology Use Guide...The agreement also allows Monsanto to investigate farmers’ fields at any time, and to access farmers’ records filed with the USDA Farm Service Agency. These records tell Monsanto how many bags a farmer bought and exactly how many acres he planted the seed on, making property investigations and prosecution very easy. To make things even simpler, Monsanto set up a toll-free where neighbors and community members are encouraged to anonymously tattle on farmers that may be using Monsanto’s seeds without a license. The company fiercely defends its patent rights and stands behind the claim that it should be able to collect damages from anyone who violates them. To achieve these ends, Monsanto has hired private investigators to videotape farmers, sneak into community meetings and interview informants about local farming activities. The cases that result from the information Monsanto collects have seen the company demanding thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees from farmers who never chose to plant the company’s seeds in the first place."
For an expose of Monsanto's legal battles with American farmers see the report: Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers.
Monsanto and the World Food Crisis
Monsanto, ever on the lookout for a new financial opportunity, especially one which, on the surface at least, appears to be benevolent found one in biofuels. The growing of corn, in Monsanto's case, genetically engineered corn, for the production of ethanol purportedly to reduce the use of fossil fuels . Unfortunately though, as is often the case with Monsanto, this silver lining has a rather large and ominous cloud, and in the massive diversion of land once used to grow food to growing crops for the fueling of automobiles yet another crisis has ensued. In early 2010, Monsanto, along with other biotech companies and philanthropists, became involved in an ongoing project designed to develop new African drought-tolerant maize varieties. While the new seeds promise increased yields during drought years, the project (specifically Monsanto's involvement) is not without controversy.
For more see Monsanto and the World Food Crisis.
Corporate Controlled Food Supply
In early 2009, corporations like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Sodexo and Tyson Foods wrote and sponsored "food safety" bills which, according to critics; hand control and policing of food to factory farms and corporations. They point out that bills impose industrial, anti-farming "standards" to independent farms. Also, that they subject those who do not use chemicals and fertilizers to severe penalties, which apply even to producers growing food for their own consumption. The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009: HR 875  was introduced by Rosa DeLauro, whose husband (Stanley Greenburg) works for Monsanto. According to critics, the bill includes criminalization of seed banking, prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers; 24 hour GPS tracking of their animals and warrentless government entry. , 
Monsanto does animal testing. The company contract tests out to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). HLS is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in all of Europe. Firms hire HLS to conduct animal toxicity tests for agrochemicals, petrochemicals, household products, pharmaceutical drugs and toxins. HLS has a long history of gross animal welfare violations.
See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Media and Public Relations
In an example of blatantly misleading consumers, Monsanto released advertisements in New York for its "Roundup" herbicide, claiming that it "biodegrades into naturally occurring elements," "will not wash or leach in the soil," and "can be used where kids and pets'll play." The company also claimed that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, "is less toxic to rats than table salt" and is "practically non-toxic." The ads were brought to the then-New York Attorney General, Dennis Vacco, for using misleading information, and all of the claims were found to be false and misleading. Vacco stated that "ads cannot imply that these pesticides, which are used to kill vegetation, are risk free."
More recently, Monsanto has engaged in a media campaign "to portray the company as an agricultural hero, a friend of farmers and a savior of the global south." The company claims to be reducing chemical use, increasing yield, protecting from drought and feeding the world’s growing population. Monsanto's advertising costs for 2009-2011 totaled $279 million, which it has used to created a more sustainable image, stating goals to “protect our natural resources, fight hunger, improve nutrition and provide economic benefits to everyone involved in an improved system of agriculture.” In reality, Monsanto is not following through on these promises:
- "Its model of agriculture brings higher costs for farmers in the United States and abroad, while Monsanto and other biotech companies reap the profits. GE crops have shown little benefit over conventional crops, as the herbicide- and pesticide-laden crops have led to weed and pest resistance, have shown small increase or no yield advantage and have not reduced agrochemical use. Further, the 2009 International Assessment of Agriculture Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development concluded that the high costs for seeds and chemicals, uncertain yields and potential to undermine local food security makes biotechnology a poor choice for the developing world."
Monsanto & Fox News: Partners in Censorship
In the fall of 1996, award-winning investigative journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were hired by WTVT in Tampa, Florida to produce a series on rBGH. After over a year's work and three days before the series was scheduled to air, Fox News executives received the first of two letters from Monsanto's lawyers. According to the letters, Monsanto would suffer "enormous damage" if the series ran. The second letter warned of "dire consequences" of the series was aired as it stood. (How Monsanto knew what was in the series, remains a mystery.) WTVT had been advertising the series aggressively, but canceled it at the last moment. According to Florida Court records, Fox's lawyers then attempted to water down the series, twice offering to pay the journalists to leave the station and keep quiet about what had been done to their work. The reporters refused and filed a lawsuit against WTVT on April 2, 1998.
The lawsuit charged that WTVT violated its license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), by demanding that the journalists include known falsehoods in the rBGH series. They also charged that WTVT violated Florida's whistle blower law. On three separate occasions, Fox attempted to have the case summarily dismissed. However, after a five-week trial and six hours of deliberation ending on August 18, 2000, the jury unanimously determined that Fox "acted intentionally and deliberately to falsify or distort the plaintiffs' news reporting on BGH." They also found that Jane's threat to blow the whistle on Fox to the FCC, was the sole reason for their termination. She was awarded $425,000 in damages. On February 14, 2003, after six rejections by three different judges, Fox finally managed to win an appeal.
For more, see Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship.
Center for Consumer Freedom
Alliance for Better Foods Front Group
According to the corporate profile developed by Good Jobs First, in the 1990s, "Monsanto and other biotech companies devoted tens of millions of dollars to make their case, forming front groups such as the Alliance for Better Foods."
Lobbying and Political Contributions
A 2001 investigation by the New York Times noted that Monsanto has long been "a political power with deep connections in Washington," exerting a powerful influence over the regulations and laws that to govern the biotech industry. According to the New York Times, "What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto -- and, by extension, the biotechnology industry -- got. If the company's strategy demanded regulations, rules favored by the industry were adopted. And when the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing."
"In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do," said Dr. Henry Miller, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution who was responsible for biotechnology issues at the Food and Drug Administration from 1979 to 1994."
The investigation details how Monsanto originally took a slow approach to introducing new biotech products, often attempting to ease the way by consulting with environmental and consumer groups. But in the 1990s, the company switched to a more aggressive "strategy to erase regulatory barriers and shove past the naysayers." Going directly through political channels rather than attempting to gain public support got the company the regulations it asked for, including an FDA policy requiring no testing or labeling for genetically engineered products. Monsanto continues to spend generously on lobbying and political campaigns, as detailed below.
Monsanto spent $4,120,000 on federal lobbying in 2014, including $1.5 million spent on outside firms.
2014 Monsanto Lobbying Data:
|Lobbying Firm||Amount Reported||Issue|
|Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld||$200,000||"Issues relating to legislation regarding patent litigation;" S. 1013, H.R. 2024; H.R. 3309; S. 1720; S. 1612; "Biotrade" and biotech approvals in China|
|American Continental Group||$200,000||America Invents Act implementation; proposed Reform to Patent Law; cybertheft of identification.|
|Crawford, Quilty & Mauro||$240,000||Agriculture consolidation; biotech regulations|
|Lincoln Policy Group||$240,000||"General agricultual issues specific to the biotech industry"; "General outreach with key lawmakers on agriculture issues specific to the biotech industry"; "Outreach on issues related to Chinas regulatory import approval system"|
|Monsanto Company||$4,120,000||Biotech regulations; Public Law No: 113-79 Agricultural Act of 2014; H.R. 5656 Global Food Security Act of 2014; S. 2909 Global Food Security Act of 2014|
|Noble Strategies||$120,000||Biotech regulations; S.954: Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013; H.R. 1947: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013; Implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill|
|The Russell Group||$320,000||Biotechnology Acceptance; Agriculture, Competition, and Related Issues; Reauthorization of the Farm Bill, (H.R. 2642, "Agricultural Act of 2014"). Agriculture, Competition, and Related Issues; Implementation of the Farm Bill, (P.L. 113-79, "Agricultural Act of 2014"); H.R. 4800 and S. 2389 ("The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2015".|
|The Washington Tax Group||$180,000||Issues related to extension and expansion of alternative simplified research and development tax credit; issues relating to international tax and corporate tax reform; issues related to percentage mine depletion; issues related to the manufacturing deduction. (Expire Act; H.R. 4464; H.R. 4438.)|
Monsanto spent $6,940,000 on federal lobbying in 2013, including $1.36 million spent on outside firms.
2013 Monsanto Lobbying Data:
|Lobbying Firm||Amount Reported||Issue|
|Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld||$200,000||Issues relating to international trade agreements; "issues relating to legislation regarding frivolous patent litigation"; S. 1013; H.R. 2024; H.R. 3309; S. 1720; S. 1612.|
|American Continental Group||$200,000||America Invents Act implementation; proposed Reform to Patent Law; cybertheft of identification.|
|Crawford, Quilty & Mauro||$280,000||Agriculture consolidation and competition; Roundup Ready Sugarbeets and Roundup Ready Alfalfa; biotech innovation and regulations.|
|Lincoln Policy Group||$60,000||Soy product process.|
|Monsanto Company||$6,940,000||Biotech innovation and regulations; Roundup Ready Alfalfa; Roundup Ready Sugarbeets; agricultural research; S. 10: Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013; H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, Section 735; Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA) Regulations; H.R. 935: Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013; implementation of the America Invents Act (Public Law No. 112-29); Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007; mineral licensing and royalty issues; phosphate mining; issues related to the extension and expansion of alternative simplified research and development tax credit; issues relating to international corporate tax reform issues; foreign agriculture laws, regulations, and trade; Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP); S. 954: Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013; H.R. 1947: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013; S. 1244: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014; H.R. 2410: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014; S. 802 Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2013; proposed reforms to patent litigation; cybertheft of IP; pension benefits guaranty corporation premium rates; H. J. RES. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014; issues related to percentage of mine depletion; issues related to the manufacturing deduction; H.R. 2462: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013; H.R. 3309: Innovation Act; S. 1013: Patent Abuse Reduction Act of 2013; S. 1720: Patent Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013|
|Noble Strategies||$120,000||Biotech regulations, Roundup Ready Alfalfa, Roundup Ready Sugarbeets, agriculture research; S. 3240, H.R. 6083, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012; Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act; implementation of the "America Invents Act"; HR 5973 and S. 2375 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013; S. 954: Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013; H.R. 1947: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013; S. 1244: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014; H.R. 2410: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014; H. J. RES. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014.|
|The Russell Group||$320,000||Biotechnology acceptance; agriculture, competition, and related issues; FY 2013 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, biotechnology approval in Title XII; reauthorization of the Farm Bill, S. 954 ("The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013") and H.R.1947 ("The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013"); H.R. 2410 and S. 1244 ("The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, FY 2014").|
|The Washington Tax Group||$180,000||Issues related to extension and expansion of alternative simplified research and development tax credit; issues relating to international corporate tax reform; issues related to percentage mine depletion; issues related to the manufacturing deduction; issues related to Chinese regulatory process; foreign agriculture laws, regulations, and trade; Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP); biotech innovation and regulations.|
2012 Monsanto Lobbying Data:
|Lobbying Firm||Amount Reported||Issue|
|Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld||$100,000||Issues relating to international trade agreements; introduction of client's international activities; issues relating to funding of the U.S.-Brazil Framework on cotton; issues relating to Farmer Assurance Provision in Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 5973)|
|American Continental Group||$150,000||America Invents Act implementation.|
|Arent Fox||$10,000||Importation of agricultural biotechnology products|
|Crawford & Mauro Law Firm||$75,000||Agriculture consolidation and competition.|
|Monsanto Company||$2,930,000||Biotech Regulations; Plant Protection Act; Roundup Ready Alfalfa; Roundup Ready Sugarbeets, H.R. 872: Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 S. 473: Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act of 2011 H.R. 901: Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security Authorization Act of 2011 Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, Implementation of the America Invents Act, Title II. Energy Security Through Increased Production of Biofuels, Subtitle A. Renewable Fuel Standard, Phosphate Mining, Issues related to the extension and expansion of alternative simplified research and development tax credit (H.R. 942) Issues relating to international corporate tax reform issues (S. 727) S. 1577: Greater Research Opportunities with Tax Help Act Tax Reform Act of 2011, Foreign Agriculture Biotechnology Laws, Regulations, and Trade, House and Senate FY 2013 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA Appropriations Bills; H.R. 2642: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013;|
|Noble Strategies||$60,000||Biotech Regulations Roundup Ready Alfalfa Roundup Ready Sugarbeets|
|The Russell Group||$160,000||Biotech Acceptance; Agriculture, Competition, and Related Issues; Advocacy for Plant Protection Act concerns; FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Act; Work relating to seed trade issues with South America.|
|The Washington Tax Group||$90,000||Issues related to extension and expansion of alternative simplified research and development tax credit (H.R. 942, S. 1577); issues relating to international corporate tax reform (S. 727, S. 2091).|
Nineteen out of Monsanto's 26 lobbyists (73 percent) are "revolving door" or have worked for government at some point in their career, including Stanley Abramson, who worked for the EPA, and Jeremy Stump and Randall Russell, who worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As of the first quarter of 2014, Monsanto had given $428,744 to federal candidates and party committees for the 2014 election cycle.
In 2012, Monsanto spent $4.2 million financing "No On 37", a group supported by other GMO food manufacturers like DuPont, Dow, and Bayer. "No On 37" opposed California proposition 37, which would require labels on most genetically modified food products.
The company made $1.2 million in federal political contributions during the 2012 campaign cycle. Top recipients included the Republican and Democratic Governor's Associations, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), President Barack Obama, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO).
"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job" - Philip Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications. "Playing God in the Garden" New York Times Magazine, October 25, 1998.
"Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety" — FDA, "Statement of Policy: Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties" (GMO Policy), Federal Register, Vol. 57, No. 104 (1992), p. 229
For lots more see Monsanto Notable Quotes
- GMO seeds have been genetically modified to produce their own pesticide, survive the spraying of Roundup and self terminate. They are also incredibly expensive compared to traditional seeds. As a result, farmers in India were forced into total dependence on Monsanto by having to purchase new seeds annually. Because of Monsanto's ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground, 125,000 farmers took their own lives after being driven into a hopeless cycle of debt and losing their lands and homes.
- GMOs, which were never adequately tested for safety, have failed catastrophically. At least 70% of our food contains genetically engineered food brought by Monsanto. GMO is endangering our health and environment at an alarming rate. Cross contamination is irreversible and good organic crops are being jeopardized.
Key Executives Pay
As of December 2014:
- Hugh Grant - Chairman and CEO, $13.4 million (2014), $12.6 million (2013), $14.2 million (2012)
- Robert T. Fraley, PhD - CTO and Executive VP, $4.4 million (2014), $3.9 million (2013), $4.6 million (2012)
- Brett D. Begemann - President and COO, $4.97 million (2014), $3.9 million (2013), $4.06 million (2012)
- David F. Snively - Executive VP, Secretary, and General Counsel, $3.2 million (2014), $2.9 million (2013), $3.1 million (2012)
- Pierre C. Coorduroux - Senior Vice President and CFO, $3.3 million (2014), $3.1 million (2013), $2.9 million (2012)
- Gerald A. Steiner - Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, $3.2 million (2014)
Board of Directors
As of January 2015:
- Hugh Grant, Chairman & CEO, Monsanto
- Gregory Boyce, CEO & chairman Peabody Energy
- David L. Chicoine, President of South Dakota State University
- Janice L. Fields, former president of McDonald’s USA, LLC
- Arthur H. Harper, managing partner of GenNx360 Capital Partners
- Laura K. Ipsen, corporate vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Public Sector organization
- Gwendolyn S. King, president of Podium Prose
- Marcos M. Lutz, CEO of Cosan S.A. Indústria e Comércio (production and sale of sugar and ethanol worldwide, distribution of fuels and lubricants in Brazil, and operation of port and rail logistics)
- C. Steven McMillan, retired chairman of the board and CEO of Sara Lee Corporation
- Jon R. Moeller, CFO, Procter & Gamble Company
- William U. Parfet, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and President of MPI Research, Inc.
- George H. Poste, CEO, Health Technology Networks
- Robert J. Stevens, executive chairman of the board of Lockheed Martin Corporation
800 N. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63167
Web address: http://www.monsanto.com
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Monsanto's Use of Humanitarian Projects to Open Global Markets to GMOs
- June 12, 2003 House Hearing on Plant Biotechnology Research in Africa
- Robert T. Fraley
- Robert B. Horsch
- Roundup Ready Crops
- Bt Corn
- Bt Eggplant
- Monsanto and Agent Orange
- Animal testing
- CCF funding
Corporate Rap Sheet
- Philip Mattera, Corporate Research Project, Monsanto: Corporate Rap Sheet, last modified August 18, 2013.
- Monsanto's High Level Connections to the Bush Administration
- Monsanto and the Safe Food Coalition
- Monsanto and Burson-Marsteller Hire a Consumer Organizer
- Fired Fox-TV Journalists Win Goldman Environmental Prize
- Asgrow Agronomics
- DEKALB Genetics Corporation
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