From the Co-Op America:
A world leader in pesticide production and genetically modified crops, Monsanto Corporation is no stranger to controversy. During the Vietnam War, the US military sprayed a chemical infamously known as Agent Orange across the jungles of Vietnam to reduce tree density, making it easier for soldiers to see the ground. Approximately 72 million liters of this destructive chemical were released and caused severe health defects among the soldiers who handled the chemical, as well as the Vietnamese who were exposed to it. The primary manufacturer of Agent Orange was Monsanto. Though Agent Orange is now banned in the U.S., Monsanto has plenty of other harmful products to take its place. Named one of the “Most Wanted Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005” by Global Exchange, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for social justice, Monsanto has been accused of turning a blind eye to child labor; contaminating entire communities with harmful chemicals; and bribing foreign government officials. It is also among the most politically powerful companies in the country. Despite its weekly television program, “American Heartland,” which is aimed at celebrating American agriculture, the company routinely pits itself against organic farmers and is quick to litigate over its patented seeds and crops.
Bottom line: Join the Millions Against Monsanto campaign and support local, organic, and GMO-free foods and farmers. Use Go Green to learn more about being a responsible consumer.
- 1 Basic information
- 2 Current social, environmental and political campaigns targeting Monsanto
- 3 Social, environmental and political impact
- 4 Organizational information
- 5 Articles and Resources
Monsanto is the leader in the bioengineering industry, applying their genetic engineering technologies to a range of agricultural commodities from corn to fertilizers. Best-known as the creator of Roundup herbicide, Monsanto produces approximately 70 percent of the world’s pest-resistant genetically engineered crops. Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri and has a workforce of 12,600. The company boasted sales of over $6.29 billion in 2005.
Millions Against Monsanto
Millions Against Monsanto, a campaign sponsored by the Organic Consumers Association, targets Monsanto for abuses ranging from bullying small farmers to failing to adequately test and disclose the genetic engineering of products on supermarket shelves. The campaign asks consumers to contact the CEO and President of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, asking him to reconsider the company’s practices. 
Food & Agribusiness Campaign
Corporate Accountability International is working internationally to challenge three of the biggest food and agribusiness corporations in the world--Monsanto, Cargill and Dow--for poisoning the environment, bankrupting small farmers, and turning basic fruits, vegetables, and meat into luxuries people can't afford. Click on the URL below to read more about the issue. 
Social, environmental and political impact
Health and Safety
A study conducted by researchers at Cornell University of nearly 500 Chinese cotton farmers called into question the sustainability of Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton (Bt cotton). The study showed that after seven years of planting Monsanto’s Bt cotton, pesticide use by the GM farmers was no lower than by conventional farmers. The toxins in Bt cotton are only effective against leaf-eating bollworms. The presence of other pests has actually increased, which necessitates farmers producing genetically modified crops to spray their crops with other pesticides up to 20 times a growing season. Additionally, farmers who produce genetically modified crops earned eight percent less than their conventional counterparts, as Bt cotton seeds are three times more expensive.
-- Chronicle Online, 07/25/2006 Source URL: www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July06/Bt.cotton.China.ssl.html
A coalition of farmers, environmental advocates and consumers filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture (USDA) over Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa seeds. Plaintiffs in the case allege that the USDA is allowing Monsanto to sell herbicide-resistant GMO alfalfa without first assessing the overall impacts of such a crop. According to Will Rastov, an attorney for Center for Food Safety, "The USDA failed to do a full environmental review when they deregulated this genetically engineered alfalfa. They're going to wreak untold dangers into the environment." Alfalfa is easily cross pollinated by the wind and bees, and plaintiffs worried that conventional crops will inevitably be contaminated by genetically modified crops, which would force farmers to pay Monsanto for the patented product. Environmental advocates also argue that Monsanto is marketing the biotech alfalfa in such a way that encourages the use of more herbicides than is typically required to cultivate alfalfa.
-- Reuters, 02/17/2006 Source URL: none available
In November of 2005, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein dismissed a lawsuit against Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Hercules Inc., filed by Vietnamese citizens who suffered adverse health effects from the chemical Agent Orange. The judge stated that a direct relationship between Agent Orange and health problems experienced by the plaintiffs had not been sufficiently proven. Agent Orange was widely used to reduce jungle foliage and increase visibility for American troops fighting during the Vietnam War. The chemical contained dioxin, a known human carcinogen, and plaintiffs argued that Agent Orange was the cause of widespread birth defects, miscarriages and cancer. Vietnam's Association of Agent Orange insists that it will appeal the court's decision based on a 1984 settlement reached between the chemical companies and aggrieved Vietnam War veterans. The companies paid $180 million to veterans who argued their health had suffered as a result of handling Agent Orange.
-- BBC News, 11/03/2005 Source URL: news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/4339419.stm
According to Greenpeace, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group, Monsanto filed for patents on methods of breeding pigs and any resulting offspring. "If these patents are granted, Monsanto can legally prevent breeders and farmers from breeding pigs whose characteristics are described in the patent claims, or force them to pay royalties," says Christoph Then, the Greenpeace researcher who uncovered the patents.
-- Greenpeace, 08/02/2005 Source URL: www.greenpeace.org/international/news/monsanto-pig-patent-111
The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has criticized GM food producers for failing to use their technology to address food shortages in poor countries. According to the FAO, GM technology has not been used to improve the nutritional value of staple foods such as rice and cassava. Giant GM corporations have instead focused on what they perceive to be more lucrative crops like corn, soy beans, canola and cotton. While the FAO advocates proceeding with caution when using GMOs, it has expressed disappointment at missed opportunities to apply technology to help the plight of the poor and starving.
-- Planet Ark, 05/18/2004 Source URL: www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=25142
In 2003, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against Oakhurst Dairy of Portland, Maine, accusing the dairy of “misleading advertising” about the effects of bovine growth hormones. Oakhurst’s milk packaging labels read, “Our Farmers’ Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones,” which, according to Monsanto, carries the unsubstantiated implication that such hormones are unhealthy. Monsanto maintains that scientific evidence has yet to show any difference between milk from cows that are rBGH-free and those that are hormone-treated. Monsanto is the only producer of Prosilac, the bovine growth hormone.
-- Portland Press Herald, 11/18/2003 Source URL: none available
Organic farmers in Canada filed a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto for conducting field trials of its Roundup Ready genetically engineered wheat in the Canadian “Prairie Provinces.” Test crops of Monsanto’s wheat were allegedly planted in locations unbeknownst to the public, and organic farmers fear that this could result in widespread contamination of natural wheat species and organic crops. Farmers are concerned that more than $170 million will be lost if the genetically engineered wheat crops are not contained.
-- Leader Post, 12/21/2002 Source URL: none available
Ethics and Governance
In February 2007, the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) sued Monsanto, claiming the company used its monopolistic powers to stem its competition and artificially inflate price of glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, seeks simply to stop Monsanto’s anticompetitive practices. No monetary damages are being sought.
-- Organic Consumers Association, 02/25/2007 Source URL: www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4303.cfm
Farmers across 13 states are suing Monsanto for alleged bribery of other bio-tech companies such as DuPont. The farmers claim bribes were exchanged in order for Monsanto to dominate the seed-production market until it held a monopoly over the industry and could fix prices. Monsanto denies any wrongdoing, claiming it makes no sense to partner with industry rivals and that it wouldn’t be economically strategic for other companies to hand over their lands to Monsanto for a small share of the profits. The judge presiding over the case has remained unconvinced by Monsanto’s defense arguments. Because nearly 98 percent of all soybean crops in the United States originate from Monsanto seeds, if this case continues, most of the soybean farmers could be claimants.
-- St. Louis Daily Record, 01/08/2007 Source URL: none
More than 90 Texas cotton farmers sued Monsanto, Bayer CropScience LP and Delta & Pine Land Co claiming the companies withheld information about a genetically engineered cotton product resulting in widespread crop loss. Citing a "longstanding campaign of deception," plaintiffs in the case allege that Monsanto's biotech Roundup Ready cotton did not withstand treatments of the Roundup weed killer as it was genetically designed to do. Farmers argue that Monsanto knew the product was defective when exposed to extremely hot and dry conditions, but the company failed to disclose such information.
-- Reuters, 02/27/2006 Source URL: none available
In January of 2005, Monsanto was fined $1.5 million by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The SEC claims Monsanto gave a $50,000 bribe to a high-level Indonesian Ministry of Environment official to overturn an environmental impact assessment law preventing the sale of bioengineered crops in Indonesia, which he subsequently did. Furthermore, the SEC stated that “…from 1997 to 2002, Monsanto inaccurately recorded, or failed to record, in its books and records approximately $700,000 of illegal of questionable payments made to various Indonesian government officials.”
-- SocialFunds.com, 08/26/2005 Source URL: www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/article1789.html
From 1998 to 2002 Monsanto gave a total of $95,500 in soft money contributions. In the 2002 election cycle alone, Monsanto gave $48,000 in soft money donations with $5,000 of that amount going to Democrats and the rest going to Republicans. This is more than double what it gave in the 2000 cycle, when Monsanto donated $22,500, all of which went to the Republican Party.
-- Center for Responsive Politics, 06/24/1905 Source URL: www.opensecrets.org/softmoney/softcomp1.asp?txtName=monsanto
A 2006 report by Boston-based nonprofit Ceres, titled "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection," commissioned by Investor Responsibility Resource Center, details a comprehensive measurement of how 100 leading global companies are responding to global warming. Through an evaluation of board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, emissions accounting, and strategic performance, to address climate change, the companies were evaluated on a 0 to 100 scale. Monsanto scored a total of 32 points.
-- CERES, 03/01/2006 Source URL: www.ceres.org/pub/docs/Ceres_corp_gov_and_climate_change_0306.pdf
Monsanto is responsible for the contamination of an entire community by regularly dumping toxic waste from its PCB (industrial coolants which are now banned) plant in Anniston, Alabama into local waterways and open landfills for almost 40 years. From the late 1960s through the late 70s, fish placed in Anniston Creek turned belly-up and died within 10 seconds, and in nearby creeks fish were discovered with PCB levels 7,500 times greater than the legal limit. Instances of cancer within the community soared, and residents remained uninformed of the danger while their children continued to play in toxic waters. A high mortality rate among young children indicated to some that a problem existed. Monsanto had knowledge of the damage, as proven by internal documents reporting on contamination bearing labels such as “CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy.” The corporation concluded that "there is little object in going to expensive extremes in limiting discharges."
-- Washington Post, 01/01/2002 Source URL: www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A46648-20...
In January 2007, Monsanto announced that it would work closely with U.S. cotton growers to ensure the long-term sustainability of the cotton industry. It will attend a series of “listening events” across the country in an effort to better understand the needs and concerns of the cotton growers. The company says there are four areas in which it will work with cotton growers: risk management, technology pricing, global availability of new technology and long-term sustainability.
Monsanto was an official 2005 "Public Eye Awards" nominee in the environment category. While international governments and corporations convene at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the NGO coalition known as the "Public Eye on Davos" gathers at an alternative event and presents the annual winners of the award. The awards recognize those "companies that have excelled in socially and environmentally irresponsible behavior."
-- EvB, 11/01/2005 Source URL: www.evb.ch/index.cfm?page_id=3294&archive=none
A report commissioned by the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) and the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) states that thousands of children aged fourteen and younger are used as laborers on hybrid cotton farms in Andhra Pradesh, India. The children, primarily girls, are made to work long hours and are exposed to toxic pesticides and hazardous conditions. Monsanto, Syngenta, Advanta and Bayer were among the corporations implicated as having overlooked the child labor abuses.
"The Price of Childhood: On the Link Between Prices Paid to Farmers and the Use of Child Labour in Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh, India."
-- India Committee of the Netherlands, 10/01/2005 Source URL: none available
Monsanto outperforms its competitors when it comes to women in senior-level positions. According to a study of Fortune 500 companies done by Catalyst, a New York-based advocacy group for women in the workplace, the percentage of women in Monsanto’s executive team is 15.4 percent; the industry average is 12.3 percent. Of all Monsanto employees, 29 percent are women.
Monsanto was named one of the "Most Wanted Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005" by Global Exchange, an organization that promotes social justice around the world.
-- Global Exchange, 06/27/1905 Source URL: www.globalexchange.org/getInvolved/corporateHRviolators.html
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