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Monsanto

From Academic Kids

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Monsanto logo

Monsanto Company Template:Nyse is a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as its flagship product, Roundup. Numerous studies have shown that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 15,000 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of $5.4 billion US reported for August, 2004.

Contents

A Controversial Company

Monsanto's development and marketing of genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive legal and lobby practices have made Monsanto a primary target of the anti-globalization movement and environmental activists. While other chemical and biotech multinationals face similar criticisms, Monsanto is easily the most reviled. Many activists refer to Monsanto's products as frankenfoods, and its most vehement opponents refer to Monsanto as "Monsatan".

Board of Directors

Robert Shapiro is Monsanto's president (he named aspartame NutraSweet). John Reed is a member on the board of directors of Monsanto and was a former assistant of Ernst Hanfstängl, a friend of Hitler. Reed is also chairman of Citibank and a confederate of the CIA. Reed was an instigator of the Purple Ink Document in the 1980s. Dr. Charles Thomas was chairman of the Monsanto board. He directed a group of scientists during WW II in the refinement of plutonium for use in the atomic bomb. Another Monsanto director was William Ruckelshaus, also a director of the FBI under Nixon during COINTELPRO. Other members of the Monsanto board include Stansfield Turner and Earle Harbison. Both were CIA counterintelligence. Harbison is also a director of Merrill Lynch.

History

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Old Monsanto logo

Monsanto was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1901, by John Francis Queeny, a 30-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry. He funded the start-up with his own money and capital from a soft drink distributor, and gave the company his wife's maiden name.

Monsanto's first product was the artificial sweetener, saccharin, which it sold to the Coca-Cola Company. It also introduced caffeine and vanillin to Coca-Cola, and became one that company's main suppliers. In the 1920s, Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals like sulfuric acid.

In 1928, Queeny's son Edgar Monsanto Queeny took over the company.

In the 1940s, it became a leading manufacturer of plastics, including polystyrene, and synthetic fibers. Since then, it remained one of the top 10 US chemical companies. Other major products have included dioxin (in the herbicides 2,4,5-T and Agent Orange), aspartame (NutraSweet), Bovine somatotropin (bovine growth hormone; BST), and PCBs.

In the 1940s, Monsanto operated Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear weapons.

In 1947, ammonium nitrate fertilizer made by Monsanto and loaded on the French ship S.S. Grandcamp was responsible for the Texas City Disaster in Galveston Bay. It is considered the largest industrial accident in US history, with the highest death toll.

In 1949, Monsanto acquires American Viscose from England's Courtauld family.

In 1967, Monsanto enters into a joint venture with IG Farben, the key supplier of poison gas to the Nazi racial extermination program.

In 1980, thirty-three years after the accident, which happened during the tenure (19281960) of Edgar M. Queeny (18971968) as chairman, and twelve years after his death, Monsanto established the Edgar Monsanto Queeny safety award [1] (http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto/layout/media/00/03-10-00.asp) in his honor, to encourage accident prevention.

Through a process of mergers and spin-offs between 1997 and 2002, Monsanto has made a transition from chemical giant to biotech giant.

In 1999, Monsanto sold their Phenylalanine facilities to Great Lakes Chemical (GLC) for $125 million.

In 2000, GLC sued Monsanto for the $71 million dollar shortfall in expected sales.

In 2001, retired Monsanto chemist William S. Knowles was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation, which was carried out at Monsanto beginning in the 1960s until his 1986 retirement.

Spin-offs and Mergers

Through a confusing series of transactions, the Monsanto that existed from 19012000 and the current Monsanto are legally two different corporations, although they share the same name, corporate headquarters, many of the same executives and other employees, and responsibility for liabilities arising out of its former activities in the industrial chemical business.

1985: Monsanto purchases G.D. Searle & Company. In this merger, Searle's aspartame business became a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company.
1997: Monsanto spins off its industrial chemical and fiber divisions into Solutia.
1999: Monsanto auctioned off Nutrasweet Co. with two other companies.
2000: Monsanto merges with Pharmacia and Upjohn. Later in the year, Pharmacia forms a new subsidiary, also named Monsanto, for the agricultural divisions, and retains the medical research divisions, which includes products such as Celebrex.
2002: Pharmacia spins off its remaining interest in Monsanto, which has since existed as a separate company: the "new Monsanto". As part of the deal, Monsanto agrees to indemnify Pharmacia against any liabilities that might be incurred from judgements against Solutia. As a result, the new Monsanto continues to be a party to numerous lawsuits that relate to operations of the old Monsanto.

Legal Issues

Monsanto is notable for its involvement in high profile lawsuits, as both plaintiff and defendant. It has been involved in a number of class action suits, where fines and damages have run into the hundreds of millions, usually over health issues related to its products. Monsanto has also made frequent use of the courts to defend its intellectual property, particularly in the area of biotechnology.

As Defendant

In 1917, the US government filed suit against Monsanto over the safety of its original product, saccharin. Monsanto eventually won, after several years in court.

It was sued by veterans for the side effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the US military in the Vietnam War.

In 2000, GLC sued Monsanto for the $71 million dollar shortfall in expected sales.

More recently, it lost a series of court decisions resulting in US$700 million in damages being awarded to thousands of residents of an Alabama town that had been polluted over a period of years by Monsanto's PCB byproducts.

On October 13th, 2004, the European plant variety rights on a conventionally-bred strain of soft-milling wheat owned by French company RAGT Genetique were withdrawn at RAGT's request. The strain, called Galatea, was developed by Unilever and purchased by Monsanto in 1998; RAGT purchased the strain from Monsanto in May 2004 along with Monsanto's European wheat and barley business. Galatea is a cross between a European wheat strain and a conventional Indian variety Nap Hal. Greenpeace considers RAGT's withdrawal to represent a victory by Greenpeace over Monsanto and claim that they played a central role by proving that the variety in question was not the cross-bred strain described in the application but was really the traditional strain Nap Hal bred by Indian farmers, despite the contrary text of the application. RAGT says it withdrew its plant variety rights for commercial reasons and Greenpeace played no role in its decision.

Also in 2004, the world's largest agrichemical company, Switzerland's Syngenta, launched a US lawsuit charging Monsanto with using coercive tactics to monopolize markets.

As Plaintiff

Monsanto itself uses the courts aggressively.

Since the mid-1990s, it has sued some 150 US farmers for patent infringement in connection with its GE seed. The usual claim involves violation of a technology agreement that prohibits farmers from saving seed from one season's crop to plant the next. One farmer received an eight-month prison sentence, in addition to having to pay damages, when a Monsanto case turned into a criminal prosecution. Reportedly, according to Monsanto, it pursues approximately 500 cases of suspected infringement annually.

In 2003, Monsanto sued a dairy in Maine for advertising that its milk products did not come from cows treated with its bovine growth hormone, claiming that such advertising hurt its business.

In a high profile case in Canada, which it won at the Supreme Court level, Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing genetically modified Roundup resistant canola in 1998. Mr. Schmeiser maintained that this was accidental. He testified that in the previous year, 1997, he had suspected contamination by genetically modified Roundup-resistant canola along the roadside in one of his fields and hence had sprayed along the field edge with Roundup, whereupon he found that about 60% of the canola survived. The farm hand performing the harvest saved only seed from this contaminated roadside swathe for replanting in the next year, 1998, and presumably this seed was genetically modified Roundup-resistant seed. The court found that Mr. Schmeiser and his farming company (damages were assessed only against the company as Mr. Schmeiser was found to be acting in his capacity as director), "knew or ought to have known" the nature of the seed which was planted in 1998, and that by planting, growing and harvesting it, there was infringement of Monsanto's patent on canola cells genetically modified for Roundup resistance. This finding was upheld at the appellate court level. It had been established in Canada in the "Harvard mouse case" that genetically modified higher organisms such as plants are not patentable in Canada as they do not fall into any of the categories of patentable inventions enumerated in the Patent Act. As Monsanto's patent covered only the genetically modified plant cells but not the genetically modified plants themselves, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the question of whether growing genetically modified plants constitutes "use" of the invention of genetically modified plant cells. It ruled that it does. The case drew worldwide attention.

A widespread misunderstanding of the case is that at issue was the question of accidental contamination, and that a victory for Monsanto would place farmers in jeopardy for contamination of their fields which was beyond their control. In fact, the courts at all three levels noted that the case of accidental contamination beyond the farmer's control was not under consideration but rather that Mr. Schmeiser's action of having identified, isolated and saved the Roundup-resistant seed placed the case in a different category. The appellate court also discussed a possible intermediate scenario, in which a farmer is aware of contamination of his crop by genetically modified seed, but tolerates its presence and takes no action to increase its abundance in his crop. The court held that whether such a case would constitute patent infringement remains an open question but that it was a question that did not need to be decided in the Schmeiser case.

Monsanto and Latin America

The United States government has a contract with Dyncorp to spray an industrial version of Roundup on Colombian coca fields through Plan Colombia. Its health effects, effects on legal crops, and effectiveness in fighting the war on drugs have been disputed widely.

A Disney Link

Monsanto was the sponsor of many attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.



At Disneyland they include:

  • Hall of Chemistry
  • Fashions and Fabrics through the Years
  • House of The Future
  • Adventures Thru Innerspace

And at Walt Disney World they included:

  • Magic Eye Theatre

Random Fact: All attractions that they ever sponsored were located in Tomorrowland.

External links

fr:Monsanto nl:Monsanto pl:Monsanto

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