|Traded as||NYSE: MON
S&P 500 Component
|Founded||St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. (1901)|
|Founders||John Francis Queeny|
|Headquarters||Creve Coeur, Missouri, U.S.|
|Key people||Hugh Grant
(Chairman, President and CEO)
|Products||Herbicides, pesticides, crop seeds|
|Employees||~21,900 (FY 2013)|
Monsanto Company is a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand.
Founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, by the 1940s Monsanto was a major producer of plastics, including polystyrene and synthetic fibers. Notable achievements by Monsanto and its scientists as a chemical company included breakthrough research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation and being the first company to mass-produce light emitting diodes (LEDs). The company also formerly manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and recombinant bovine somatotropin (a.k.a. bovine growth hormone).
Monsanto was among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, along with three academic teams, which was announced in 1983, and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops, which it did in 1987. It remained 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 a pioneer in applying the biotechnology industry business model to agriculture, using techniques developed by Genentech and other biotech drug companies in the late 1970s in California.:2–6 In this business model, companies invest heavily in research and development, and recoup the expenses through the use and enforcement of biological patents. Monsanto's application of this model to agriculture, along with a growing movement to create a global, uniform system of plant breeders' rights in the 1980s, came into direct conflict with customary practices of farmers to save, reuse, share and develop plant varieties. Its seed patenting model has also been criticized as biopiracy and a threat to biodiversity. Monsanto's role in these changes in agriculture (which include its litigation and its seed commercialization practices), its current and former biotechnology products, its lobbying of government agencies, and its history as a chemical company have made Monsanto controversial.
- 1 History
- 2 Corporate governance
- 3 Products and associated issues
- 3.1 Current products
- 3.2 Former products
- 3.3 Pipeline products
- 3.4 Pipeline products - cancelled
- 4 Legal actions and controversies
- 4.1 Patents
- 4.2 Other legal actions in North America
- 4.3 Legal actions and controversies outside North America
- 4.4 False advertising
- 4.5 March Against Monsanto protests
- 5 Political contributions and lobbying
- 6 U.S. public officials' connections to Monsanto
- 7 Sponsorships
- 8 See also
- 9 Documentaries
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 External links
1901 to WWII
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. His father-in-law was Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto, a wealthy financier of a sugar company active in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and based in St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies. The company's first products were commodity food additives, like the artificial sweetener saccharin, caffeine, and vanillin.:6
Monsanto expanded to Europe in 1919 by entering a partnership with Graesser's Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr, near Ruabon Wales, to produce vanillin, aspirin and its raw ingredient salicylic acid, and later rubber processing chemicals. This site was later sold and closed in 2010. In the 1920s Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals like sulfuric acid and PCBs, and 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 a liberal regulatory environment and low taxes for the Monsanto chemical 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.
In 1936 Monsanto acquired Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio, in order to acquire the expertise of Charles Allen Thomas and Dr. Carroll A. ("Ted") Hochwalt and made it into Monsanto's Central Research Department.:340–341 Thomas spent the rest of his career at Monsanto until his retirement in 1970, during which time he served as President (1951–60) and Chairman of the Board (1960–65). In 1943, Thomas was called to a meeting in Washington DC with Brig. Gen. Leslie Groves, commander of the Manhattan Project, and with James Conant, president of Harvard University and chairman of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). 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. Thomas joined the NDRC, and Monsanto's Central Research Department began to conduct research for the Manhattan Project under contract from the US government.:vii To that end, Monsanto operated the Dayton Project, and later Mound Laboratories, and assisted in the development of the first nuclear weapons.
In 1946, it developed "All" laundry detergent and began to market it; they sold the product line to Lever Brothers in 1957. In 1947, one of its factories was destroyed in the Texas City Disaster. Monsanto acquired American Viscose from England's Courtauld family in 1949. In 1954 Monsanto partnered with German chemical giant Bayer to form Mobay and market polyurethanes in the United States.
Monsanto began manufacturing DDT in 1944, along with some 15 other companies. This insecticide was much welcomed in the fight against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Due to DDT's toxicity, its use in the United States was banned in 1972. In 1977 Monsanto stopped producing PCBs; the United States Congress banned domestic PCB production two years later. In the 1960s and 1970s, Monsanto was also one of the most important producers of Agent Orange for United States Armed Forces operations in Vietnam.
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 an important advancement because it was the first method for the catalytic production of pure chiral compounds. Using this method, Knowles' team designed the "first industrial process to chirally synthesize an important compound" — L‑dopa, which is currently the main drug used to treat Parkinson's disease. In 2001 Knowles and Ryōji 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 method most widely used to make this important industrial chemical. In 1965 Monsanto chemists invented AstroTurf, which the company then commercialized.
In 1968, it became the first company to start mass production of (visible) light emitting diodes (LEDs), using gallium arsenide phosphide. This ushered in the era of solid-state lights. From 1968 to 1970, sales doubled every few months. Their products (discrete LEDs and seven-segment numeric displays) became the standards of industry. The primary markets then were electronic calculators, digital watches, and digital clocks. Monsanto was a pioneer of optoelectronics in the 1970s.
Between 1968 and 1974, the company assumed title sponsorship of the PGA Tour event in Pensacola, Fla., that was renamed the Monsanto Open. Notable winners included World Golf Hall of Fame member Gene Littler, in 1971.
In 1979, Monsanto established the Edgar Monsanto Queeny safety award in honor of its former CEO (1928‑1960), an annual $2,000 prize given to a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers to encourage accident prevention.
1980s onward: transgenic development
Monsanto scientists were among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, publishing their results in 1983. Five years later, Monsanto conducted the first field tests of genetically engineered crops.
In 1985, Monsanto acquired G. D. Searle & Company, a life sciences company focusing on pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and animal health. In 1993, Monsanto's Searle division filed a patent application for Celebrex, which in 1998 became the first selective COX‑2 inhibitor to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Celebrex became a blockbuster drug and was often mentioned as a key reason for Pfizer's acquisition of Monsanto's pharmaceutical business in 2002.
1996 to present: growth into world's largest-grossing seed company
In 1996, Monsanto purchased Agracetus, the biotechnology company that had generated the first transgenic varieties of cotton, soybeans, peanuts, and other crops, and from which Monsanto had already been licencing technology since 1991. Monsanto first entered the maize seed business when it purchased 40% of DEKALB in 1996; it purchased the remainder of the corporation in 1998. In 1998 Monsanto purchased Cargill's seed business, which gave it access to sales and distribution facilities in 51 countries. In 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, a leading global vegetable and fruit seed company, for $1.4 billion. This made it the world's largest conventional seed company at the time.
In January 2010, Forbes magazine named Monsanto company of the year for 2009. Also in 2010, Swiss research firm Covalence released its annual ranking of the ethical performance of 581 multinational corporations as rated by the tone and frequency of news articles. Monsanto company was ranked at the bottom of the list of evaluated companies.
Spin-offs and mergers
Through a series of transactions, the Monsanto that existed from 1901 to 2000 and the current Monsanto are legally two distinct corporations. Although they share the same name and corporate headquarters, many of the same executives and other employees, and responsibility for liabilities arising out of activities in the industrial chemical business, the agricultural chemicals business is the only segment carried forward from the pre-1997 Monsanto Company to the current Monsanto Company. This was accomplished beginning in the 1980s:
- 1985: Monsanto purchased G. D. Searle & Company for $2.7 billion in cash. In this merger, Searle's aspartame business became a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company. CEO of NutraSweet, Robert B. Shapiro, became CEO of Monsanto from 1995 to 2000.
- 1996: Acquired Agracetus, a majority interest in Calgene, creators of the Flavr Savr tomato, and 40% of DeKalb Genetics Corporation. It purchased the remainder of DeKalb in 1998.
- 1997: Monsanto spun off its industrial chemical and fiber divisions into Solutia Inc. This transferred the financial liability related to the production and contamination with PCBs at the Illinois and Alabama plants. In January, Monsanto announced the purchase of Holden's Foundations Seeds, a privately held seed business. By acquiring Holden's, Monsanto became the biggest American producer of foundation corn, the parent seed from which hybrids are made. The combined purchase price was $925 million. Also, in April, Monsanto purchased the remaining shares of Calgene.
- 1999: Monsanto sold off NutraSweet Co. and two other companies. In December, Monsanto merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn, and the agricultural division became a wholly owned subsidiary of the "new" Pharmacia; the medical research divisions of Monsanto, which included products such as Celebrex, were rolled into Pharmacia.
- 2000 (October): Pharmacia spun off its Monsanto subsidiary into a new company, the "new Monsanto". As part of the deal, Monsanto agreed to indemnify Pharmacia against any liabilities that might be incurred from judgments against Solutia. As a result, the new Monsanto continues to be a party to numerous lawsuits that relate to operations of the old Monsanto. (Pharmacia was bought by Pfizer in a deal announced in 2002 and completed in 2003.)
- 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 percent of the U.S. market. Monsanto's goal was to obtain "a strategic cotton germplasm and traits platform." The vegetable seed producer Seminis was purchased for $1.4 billion.
- 2007: In June, Monsanto completed its purchase of Delta & Pine Land Company, a major cotton seed breeder, for $1.5 billion. As a condition for approval of the purchase 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. 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".
- 2008: Monsanto purchased the Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for €546 million, and sold its POSILAC bovine somatotropin brand and related business to Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly in August for $300 million plus "additional contingent consideration".
- 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 accurate planting.
- 2013: Monsanto purchased San Francisco-based Climate Corp for $930 million. Climate Corp. made more accurate local weather forecasts for farmers based on data modelling and historical data and if the forecasts were wrong, the famer was recompensed.
As of December 2013. the members of the board of directors of Monsanto were:
- Gregory H. Boyce, Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy Corporation
- David L. Chicoine, president of South Dakota State University
- Janice L. Fields, former president of McDonald’s USA, LLC, a subsidiary of McDonald’s Corporation.
- Hugh Grant, president and CEO
- Arthur H. Harper, managing partner of GenNx360 Capital Partners
- Laura K. Ipsen, corporate vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Public Sector organization.
- Gwendolyn King, president of Podium Prose, a speakers bureau
- C. Steven McMillan, former chairman and CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation
- Jon R. Moeller, chief financial officer of The Procter & Gamble Company.
- William U. Parfet, chief executive officer of MPI Research Inc.
- George H. Poste, chief executive of Health Technology Networks
- Robert J. Stevens, executive chairman of the board of Lockheed Martin Corporation
Products and associated issues
Monsanto chemist John E. Franz invented glyphosate in 1970. Monsanto is the largest producer of glyphosate herbicides in the United States through its Roundup product line, which is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with commercial crops. Monsanto's last commercially relevant United States patent on glyphosate expired in 2000, and glyphosate is now produced by many companies in the US and around the world. As of 2009, sales of Roundup herbicides represent about 10% of Monsanto's yearly revenue.
In 2007, glyphosate was the most used herbicide in the US agricultural sector, with 180 to 185 million pounds (82,000 to 84,000 tonnes) applied, and the 2nd most used in home and garden market where users applied 5 to 8 million pounds (2,300 to 3,600 tonnes); additionally industry, commerce and government applied 13 to 15 million pounds (5,900 to 6,800 tonnes). While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is less toxic than all the herbicides it replaced, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist.
As of 2012, Monsanto's line of seed products includes agricultural seeds and vegetable seeds.
Many of Monsanto's agricultural seed products are genetically modified for resistance to herbicides, such as glyphosate. Monsanto sells glyphosate under the brand, "Roundup" – Monsanto calls these seeds "Roundup Ready". Monsanto's introduction of this system (planting glyphosate-resistant seed and then applying glyphosate once plants emerged) provided farmers with an opportunity to dramatically increase the yield from a given plot of land, since this allowed them to plant rows closer together. Without it, farmers had to plant rows far enough apart to control post-emergent weeds with mechanical tillage. Farmers have widely adopted the technology – for example over 90% of maize (Mon 832), soybean (MON-Ø4Ø32-6), cotton, sugar beet, and canola planted in the United States are glyphosate-resistant, as described in the GM crops article. Monsanto has also developed a Roundup Ready wheat (MON 71800) but it ceased development in 2004 due to concerns from wheat exporters about rejection of GM wheat by foreign markets.
As of 2009, the overall Roundup line of products including the GM seeds represented about 50% of Monsanto's business. The patent on the first type of Roundup Ready crop that Monsanto produced (soybeans) expires in 2014. Monsanto has broadly licensed the patent to other seed companies that include the glyphosate resistance trait in their seed products. About 150 companies have licensed the technology, including Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer.
In addition, Monsanto invented and sells agricultural seeds that are genetically modified to make a crystalline insecticidal protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, known as Bt. In 1995 Monsanto's potato plants producing Bt toxin were approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency, after having approved by the U.S. FDA, making it the first pesticide-producing crop to be approved in the United States. Monsanto has subsequently developed Bt maize (MON 802, MON 809, MON 863, MON 810), Bt soybean, and Bt cotton.
Monsanto also produces seed that has multiple 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.
As of 2012, the agricultural seed lineup included Roundup Ready alfalfa; Roundup Ready canola; cotton with Bt, Roundup Ready, or both traits; sorghum hybrids; soybeans with various oil profiles, most with the Roundup Ready trait; Roundup Ready sugarbeet; and a wide range of wheat products, many of which incorporate the nontransgenic "clearfield" imazamox-tolerant trait from BASF.
Two patents have been especially important to Monsanto's GM soybean business; one expired in 2011 and another reissued patent expires in 2014. The expiration of the second patent will mean that glyphosate resistant soybeans will be "generic", which has generated a great deal of discussion in the soybean industry.
In 2012 Monsanto was the world's largest supplier of vegetable seeds by value, selling $800m of seed. 95% of the research and development for vegetable seed is in conventional breeding and the company is concentrating on improving the taste of several vegetables. According to their website they sell "4,000 distinct seed varieties representing more than 20 species".
In 2013 Monsanto launched the first transgenic drought tolerance trait in a line of corn hybrids termed DroughtGard. 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 and by China in 2013.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Until it stopped production in 1977, Monsanto was the source of 99% of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used by U.S. industry. The PCBs were sold under trade names such as Aroclor and Santotherm; the name Santotherm is still used for non-cholorinated products.:396 PCBs are a persistent organic pollutant, and cause cancer in animals and likely in humans as well, among other health effects; PCBs were initially widely 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 the heat and fire resistance of the PVC. They were known to be highly toxic from the beginning, but it was assumed that they would be contained in the products in which they were used. However, as leaks of transformers occurred, and toxicity problems arose near factories, their durability and toxicity became widely 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.
In the late 1960s, the Monsanto plant in Sauget, IL. was the nation's largest producer of PCBs, which remain in the water along Dead Creek in Sauget. An EPA official referred to Sauget as "one of the most polluted communities in the region" and "a soup of different chemicals"
Agent Orange was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. 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".
In 2002, the Washington Post carried a front-page report on Monsanto's legacy of environmental damage in Anniston, Alabama, related to its legal production of PCBs. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit pending at that time provided documentation showing that the local Monsanto factory knowingly discharged both mercury and PCB-laden waste into local creeks for over 40 years. In another story published in 2002, the New York Times reported that during 1969 alone Monsanto had dumped 45 tons of PCBs into Snow Creek, a feeder for Choccolocco Creek which supplies much of the area's drinking water, and that the company buried millions of pounds of PCB in open-pit landfills located on hillsides above the plant and surrounding neighborhoods. In August 2003, Solutia and Monsanto agreed to pay plaintiffs $700 million to settle claims by over 20,000 Anniston residents related to PCB contamination.
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. Monsanto has been sued, and has settled, multiple times for damaging the health of its employees or residents near its Superfund sites through pollution and poisoning.
Brofiscin Quarry was used as a waste site from about 1965 to 1972 and accepted waste from BP, Veolia, and Monsanto. A 2005 report by Environmental Agency Wales found that the quarry contained up to 75 toxic substances, including heavy metals, Agent Orange, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
In February 2011 Monsanto agreed to help with the costs of remediation, but did not accept responsibility for the pollution. In 2011 Environment Agency Wales and the Rhondda Cynon Taf council announced that they had decided to place an engineered cap over the waste mass in the quarry and stated that the cost would be 1.5 million pounds; previous estimates discussed in the media had been as high as £100 million, which Environment Agency Wales had dismissed. The site was cleared of vegetation and engineering work began in October 2011.
rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone)
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. In October 2008, Monsanto sold this business, in full, to Eli Lilly for a price of $300 million plus additional consideration.
The use of rBST has been controversial, with respect to its effects on cows to which it is administered and with respect to the milk produced by those cows.
In some markets, milk from cows that are not treated with rBST is sold with labels indicating it is rBST-free; this milk has proved popular with consumers. In reaction to this, in early 2008 a pro-rBST advocacy group called "American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology" (AFACT), 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. The organization was dissolved in 2011 but its website is still accessible.
Along with other ag-biotech companies, Monsanto has been working on developing drought-resistant GM crops.
As of 2013, Monsanto's new product line, the "Xtend Crop System" was undergoing regulatory review. The system includes seed genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate and dicamba, and an herbicide product including those two active ingredients. In May 2013 the US Department of Agriculture announced that additional reviews of the Xtend soybean would be conducted due to issues of possible environmental damage.
Pipeline products - cancelled
Genetic use restriction technology, colloquially known as "terminator technology", produces plants that have sterile seeds. If put into use, it would prevent the spread of those seeds into the wild. It also would prevent farmers from planting seeds they harvest, requiring them to repurchase seed for every planting, although they also need to do this for hybrid seeds, because second-generation seeds are inferior, and in cases of patented transgenic seeds, where patent-holders like Monsanto enter into contracts with farmers who agree not to plant harvested seeds as a condition of purchase.
Terminator technology has been developed by governmental labs, university researchers, and companies, sometimes in collaboration and sometimes independently. The technology has never been known to have been used commercially. Rumors that Monsanto and other companies intended to introduce terminator technology have caused protests, for example in India.
In 1999, Monsanto pledged not to commercialize terminator technology, and has displayed that pledge on its website to the present day. The Delta and Pine Land Company intended to commercialize the technology, but D&PL was acquired by Monsanto in 2007.
In the 2000s Monsanto entered into the pig breeding business via a subsidiary, Monsanto Choice Genetics. It exited the business in 2009 when it sold that business to Newsham Genetics LC in November, divesting itself of "any and all swine-related patents, patent applications, and all other intellectual property".
Legal actions and controversies
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 of dollars, usually over health issues related to its products. Monsanto has also made frequent use of the courts to defend its patents, particularly in the area of agricultural biotechnology, as have other companies in the field, such as Dupont Pioneer and Syngenta.
In 2003 Monsanto filed patent applications with claims on breeding techniques for pigs. Greenpeace claimed that Monsanto was trying to claim ownership on ordinary breeding techniques and the filings became the target for demonstrations in Germany. A UK news article indicated that "the practices it (Monsanto) wants to protect involve identifying genes that result in desirable traits, breeding pigs to achieve those traits and using a specialised device to inseminate sows deeply in a way that uses less sperm than is typically required". In Europe, the European Patent Office rejected some claims as relating to an essentially biological process excluded from patent protection, but an application with claims from this set of filings was granted in 2008 and was later revoked. In 2007 Monsanto sold Monsanto Choice Genetics (the Monsanto entity driving these patent filings) to Newsham Genetics LC of West Des Moines, Iowa. The transaction was completed in November 2007, and Monsanto is no longer in the swine breeding business nor interested in patent filings on pigs or pig breeding.
Since the mid‑1990s, Monsanto indicates that it has filed suit against 145 individual U.S. farmers for patent infringement and/or breach of contract in connection with its genetically engineered seed but has proceeded through trial against only eleven farmers, all of which it won. The Center for Food Safety has listed 90 lawsuits through 2004 by Monsanto against farmers for claims of seed patent violations. Monsanto defends its patents and their use, explaining that patents are necessary to ensure that it is paid for its products and for all the investments it puts into developing products. The principle behind a farmer’s seed contract is simple: a business must be paid for its product. Monsanto states that a very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. While many lawsuits involve breach of Monsanto's Technology Agreement, farmers who have not signed this type of contract, but do use the patented seed, can also be found liable for violating Monsanto's patent. That said, Monsanto has stated it will not "exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means." The Federal Circuit found that this assurance is binding on Monsanto, so that farmers who do not harvest more than a trace amount of Monsanto's patented crops "lack an essential element of standing" to challenge Monsanto's patents.
The usual claim involves patent infringement due to intentionally replanting patented seed. Such activity was unanimously found by the United States Supreme Court to constitute patent infringement in Bowman v. Monsanto Co. (2013). The case began in 2007, when Monsanto sued Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman who in 1999 bought seed for his second planting from a grain elevator – the same elevator that he and others sold their transgenic crops. The elevator sold the soybeans as commodities, not as seeds for planting. Bowman tested the new seeds, and found that as he had expected, some were resistant to glyphosate. He intentionally replanted his harvest of GM seeds in subsequent years, supplementing them with more soybeans he bought at the elevator. He informed Monsanto of his activities. Monsanto stated that he was infringing their patents because the soybeans he bought from the elevator were new products that he purchased for use as seeds without a license from Monsanto; Bowman stated that he had not infringed due to patent exhaustion on the first sale of seed to whatever farmers had produced the crops that he bought from the elevator, on the grounds that for seed, all future generations are embodied in the first generation that was originally sold. In 2009 the district court ruled in favor of Monsanto; on appeal, the Federal Circuit upheld the verdict. Bowman appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which granted review, then unanimously affirmed the Federal Circuit on May 13, 2013.
The Supreme Court of Canada had issued a similar decision in Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (2004). That case concerned Percy Schmeiser, who discovered that canola growing on his farm in 1997 was Roundup resistant. He had initially discovered that some canola growing by a roadside along one of his fields was Roundup resistant when he was killing weeds along the road; this led him to spray a three- to four‑acre section of his adjacent field and 60% of the canola survived. Schmeiser harvested the seed from the surviving, Roundup resistant plants, and planted the seed in 1998. Monsanto sued Schmeiser for patent infringement for the 1998 planting. Schmeiser claimed that because the 1997 plants grew from seed that was blown into his field from neighboring fields, that he owned the harvest and was entitled to do with it whatever he wished, including saving the seeds from the 1997 harvest and planting them in 1998. The initial Canadian Federal Court rejected Schmeiser's defense and held for Monsanto, finding that in 1998 Schmeiser had intentionally planted the seeds he had harvested from the wind-seeded crops in 1997, and so patent infringement had indeed occurred. Schmeiser appealed and lost again. Schmeiser appealed to the Supreme Court which took the case and held for Monsanto by a 5‑4 vote in late May 2004. Schmeiser won a partial victory, as the Supreme Court reversed on damages, finding that because Schmeiser did not gain any profit from the infringement, he did not owe Monsanto any damages nor did he have to pay Monsanto's substantial legal bills. The case caused Monsanto's enforcement tactics to be highlighted in the media over the years it took to play out. The case is widely cited or referenced by the anti-GM community in the context of a fear of a company claiming ownership of a farmer’s crop based on the inadvertent presence of GM pollen grain or seed. "The court record shows, however, that it was not just a few seeds from a passing truck, but that Mr Schmeiser was growing a crop of 95–98% pure Roundup Ready plants, a commercial level of purity far higher than one would expect from inadvertent or accidental presence. The judge could not account for how a few wayward seeds or pollen grains could come to dominate hundreds of acres without Mr Schmeiser’s active participation, saying ‘...none of the suggested sources could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality evident from the results of tests on Schmeiser’s crop’" – in other words, the original presence of Monsanto seed on his land in 1997 was indeed inadvertent, but the crop in 1998 was entirely purposeful.
Monsanto has also successfully sued grain elevators that clean seeds for farmers to replant of inducing patent infringe. For example, Monsanto sued the Pilot Grove Cooperative Elevator in Pilot Grove, Missouri, which had been cleaning conventional seeds for decades before the issuance of patent that covering genetically engineered seeds. Similarly, a seed cleaner from Indiana, Maurice Parr, was sued by Monsanto for inducing farmers to save seeds in violation of Monsanto’s patent rights. Parr told his customers that cleaning patented seeds for replanting was not infringing activity. The case was settled and in exchange for paying no monetary damages, Parr agreed to an injunction requiring Parr to obtain certification from his clients that their seeds were not Monsanto patented seeds and to advise clients that seed-saving of patented seeds is illegal. Mr. Parr was featured in a documentary, Food, Inc..
In one case, a farmer committed misconduct while defending a Monsanto lawsuit, which resulted in criminal penalties. In 2003, a farmer received a four-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $165,649 in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud mail during litigation with Monsanto. The same farmer was ordered to pay nearly $3 million in a civil action brought by Monsanto after a jury found him liable for $803,402 damages, which the judge trebled due to willful infringement, added attorneys fees and sanctions for misconduct, all of which were affirmed by the Federal Circuit. Such damages may not be relieved through bankruptcy; in one case where a farmer was found to be willfully infringing Monsanto's patent, the damages awarded to Monsanto were found to be non-dischargeable in the farmer’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as they "fell within the Bankruptcy Act’s exception for willful and malicious injuries."
Monsanto has been criticized for a mistaken lawsuit. In 2002, Monsanto mistakenly sued Gary Rinehart of Eagleville, Missouri for patent violation. Rinehart was not a farmer or seed dealer, but sharecropped land with his brother and nephew, who were violating the patent. Monsanto dropped the lawsuit against him when it discovered the mistake. After Monsanto realized they had the wrong person and dropped the suit, it did not apologize for the mistake or offer to pay Rinehart's attorney fees.
In 2009, Monsanto sued DuPont Pioneer for patent infringement of Roundup Ready patents. DuPont had licensed the patents from Monsanto already, but had added additional glyphosphate-resistance genes to its seed, which Monsanto claimed was not allowed in the license. DuPont counter-sued, claiming that Monsanto's patent was invalid. The jury handed down a verdict on August 1, 2012, finding that DuPont not only infringed, but willfully infringed, and awarded a verdict of $1 billion, the fourth-largest patent verdict in the history of the United States. DuPont indicated it would appeal, but settled in 2013.
The Public Patent Foundation has unsuccessfully attempted to invalidate several Monsanto patents. In 2006, the foundation filed for ex parte reexamination of four patents, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) granted. However, by 2008 the PTO had confirmed the validity of all four patents, with minor amendments to two patents, and allowing new patent claims to issue for the other two patents. In 2011 the Public Patent Foundation filed claims in the Southern District of New York challenging the validity of 23 of Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed, on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and 82 other farming associations. The group contended that they were being forced to sue pre-emptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed. Monsanto moved for dismissal, citing a public pledge it made to not "exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means." District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed the lawsuit in 2012, and criticized the plaintiffs in her order for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists." In June 2013, the Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court decision.
In February 2012, two NGOs, Navdanya and No Patent on Seeds, filed documents opposing an EU patent awarded to Monsanto covering virus resistant traits of melons. They were joined by Bayer Cropscience. Monsanto had acquired DeRuiter, a seed company, in 2008, which originally filed the patent application. The activists' claim it was not an invention of Monsanto but rather bio-piracy, because the virus-resistant plants originated in India and were registered in international seed banks; they further claimed that conventional breeding methods were used to transfer the virus resistance genes from an Indian melon to other melons and that European law prohibits patents on conventional breeding. The European Patent Office created a page on its website to explain the case.
Other legal actions in North America
In a case that ran from February 1984 through October 1987, Monsanto was the defendant in the longest civil jury trial in U.S. history, Kemner v. Monsanto. The case involved a group of plaintiffs who claimed to have been poisoned by dioxin in 1979 when a train derailed in Sturgeon, Missouri. Tank cars on the train carried a chemical used to make wood preservatives and "small quantities of a dioxin called 2, 3, 7, 8, TCDD... formed as a part of the manufacturing process." The initial outcome was mixed. "The jurors, after deliberating more than two months, agreed with Monsanto that the plaintiffs had suffered no physical harm from exposure to dioxin. But they accepted the plaintiffs' argument that Monsanto had failed to alter its manufacturing process to eliminate dioxin as a byproduct and that it had failed to warn the public about dioxin's harmfulness. Most of the plaintiffs were awarded only one dollar each for actual losses, but they were awarded $16.2 million in punitive damages." Monsanto appealed the judgments and won on all counts.
In the early 1990s Monsanto faced several lawsuits over harm caused by PCBs from workers at companies such as Westinghouse that bought PCBs from Monsanto and used them to build electrical equipment. Monsanto and its customers, such as Westinghouse and GE also faced litigation from third parties, such as workers at scrap yards that bought used electrical equipment and broke them down to reclaim valuable metals. Monsanto settled some of these cases and won the others, on the grounds that it had clearly told its customers that PCBs were dangerous chemicals and that protective procedures needed to be implemented.
In 2000, Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (GLC) sued Monsanto for the $71 million shortfall in expected sales. In 1999, Monsanto had sold GLC a business unit, NSC Technologies, for approximately $125 million in cash; NSC Technologies developed, manufactured and sold chiral pharmaceutical intermediates and select bulk actives to pharmaceutical companies, including the key ingredient of aspartame. When sales did not meet projections, GLC sued Monsanto under federal securities laws. The federal case was dismissed. GLC then sued Monsanto under Delaware state law. The outcome of this case is not known.
In 2003, Monsanto reached a $300 million settlement with people in Alabama affected by the manufacturing and dumping of the toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued in a US court by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the US military in the Vietnam War. The case was dismissed, and plaintiffs appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which also denied the appeal.
In 2004, the world's largest agrichemical company, Switzerland's Syngenta, launched a US lawsuit charging Monsanto with using coercive tactics to monopolize markets. A flurry of litigation ensued, all of which was settled in 2008.
In 2005, the US DOJ filed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in which Monsanto admitted to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1) and making false entries into its books and records (15 U.S.C § 78m(b)(2) & (5)). Monsanto also agreed to pay a $1.5m fine. The case involved bribes paid to an Indonesian official. Monsanto admitted a senior manager at Monsanto directed an Indonesian consulting firm to give a $50,000 bribe to a high-level official in Indonesia's environment ministry in 2002 related to the agency's assessment on its genetically modified cotton. Monsanto told the company to disguise an invoice for the bribe as "consulting fees". Monsanto also has admitted to paying bribes to a number of other high-ranking Indonesian officials between 1997 and 2002. On March 5, 2008 the deferred prosecution agreement against Monsanto was dismissed with prejudice (unopposed by the Department of Justice) by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, thereby indicating that Monsanto had complied fully with the terms of the agreement.
In late 2006, the Correctional Tribunal of Carcassonne, France, ordered two directors of Monsanto subsidiary Asgrow to pay a €15,000 fine related to their knowledge of the presence of unauthorized genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in bags of seeds imported by Asgrow on April 13, 2000.
Monsanto was the subject of an investigation by the Environmental Agency of the UK regarding pollution caused by disposal of PCBs and other toxic waste at Brofiscin Quarry, Groes Faen. In February 2011, the Guardian reported that Monsanto had agreed to help with the costs of remediation, but did not accept responsibility for the pollution. A webpage at the Environmental Agency site put up at around that time states: "We have completed our extensive enquiries to identify those we consider should be held responsible under the contaminated land laws and be held liable for the cost of remediating Brofiscin Quarry. We are at an advanced stage in our consultations with BP, Veolia and Monsanto to provide them with the opportunity to help remediate the land on a voluntary basis. We expect to make further progress on this matter in the next few months. If this approach is unsuccessful, we have the power to carry out the work needed ourselves and recover our costs. The three companies have been identified under the legislation as inheriting the liabilities of companies who were associated with depositing wastes at the quarry."
In May 2013, glyphosate-resistant wheat (a GMO) that was not yet approved for release was discovered in a farm in Oregon, growing as a weed or "volunteer plant". The wheat was developed by Monsanto, and was a strain that was field-tested from 1998 to 2005 and was in the regulatory approval process before Monsanto withdrew it based on concern that importers would avoid the crop. The last field test in Oregon occurred in 2001. As of May 2013 there was no information as to how the wheat got there or whether it had entered the food supply; volunteer wheat from a former test field two miles away was tested and it was not found to be glyphosate-resistant. Monsanto faced penalties up to $1 million if violations of the Plant Protection Act would be found. The discovery threatened US wheat exports which totaled $8.1 billion in 2012; the US is the world's largest wheat exporter. New Scientist reported that the variety of wheat was rarely imported into Europe and doubted that the discovery of the wheat would affect Europe, but more likely destined for Asia. According to Monsanto it destroyed all the material it held after completing trials in 2004 and it was "mystified" by its appearance. 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." As of August 30, 2013, while the source of the GM wheat remained unknown, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan had all resumed placing orders, and the disruption of the export market was minimal.
As plaintiff or appellant
In 2003, Monsanto sued Oakhurst Dairy over Oakhurst's label on its milk cartons that said "Our farmer's pledge: no artificial hormones," referring to the use of bovine somatotropin (rBST). Monsanto argued that the label implied that Oakhurst milk was superior to milk from cows treated with rBST, which harmed Monsanto's business. The two companies settled out of court, and it was announced that Oakhurst would add the word "used" at the end of its label, and note that the U.S. FDA claims there is no major difference between milk from rBST-treated and non rBST-treated cows.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in case known as Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms. The case concerned an injunction against the planting of Monsanto's gentically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA). In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had deregulated RRA based on an Environmental Assessment (EA) of Monsanto's RRA. In 2006, Geertson Seed Farm and others filed suit in a California district court against the APHIS' deregulation of RRA. The district court disallowed APHIS' deregulation of RRA and issued an injunction against any new planting of RRA pending the preparation of a much more extensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The court also refused to allow a partial deregulation. Monsanto and others appealed that decision and lost, then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision. They stated that before a court disallows a partial deregulation, a plaintiff must show that it has suffered irreparable injury. "The District Court abused its discretion in enjoining APHIS from effecting a partial deregulation and in prohibiting the planting of RRA pending the agency’s completion of its detailed environmental review." The Supreme court did not consider the district court's ruling disallowing RRA's deregulation and consequently RRA was still a regulated crop waiting for APHIS's completion of an EIS. At the time, both sides claimed victory. This was the first ruling of the United States Supreme Court on genetically engineered crops. After APHIS prepared an Environmental Impact Statement for RRA, in 2012 it was deregulated again.
On January 23, 2008, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and the Organic Seed Alliance and High Mowing Seeds filed a lawsuit against USDA-APHIS regarding their decision to deregulate a glyphosate-resistant sugar beet developed by Monsanto and KWS SAAT AG in 2005. The organizations expressed concerns regarding glyphosate-resistant sugar beets' ability to potentially cross pollinate with conventional sugar beet. On September 21, 2009, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that USDA-APHIS had violated Federal law in deregulating glyphosate-resistant sugar beet and on August 13, 2010, he ruled further, revoking the deregulation of glyphosate-resistant sugar beet and declaring it unlawful for growers to plant glyphosate-resistant sugar beet in the spring of 2011. As a result of this ruling, growers were permitted to harvest and process their crop at the end of the 2010 growing season, yet a ban on new plantings was enacted. After Judge White's ruling, USDA-APHIS prepared an Environmental Assessment seeking partial deregulation of glyphosate-resistant sugar beet and allowed GM seedlings to be planted. In November 2010, in response to a suit by the original parties, Judge White ordered the destruction of the plantings. In February 2011, a federal appeals court for the Northern district of California in San Francisco, citing the Supreme Court's 2010 decision on RRA, overturned the ruling, concluding that "The Plaintiffs have failed to show a likelihood of irreparable injury. Biology, geography, field experience, and permit restrictions make irreparable injury unlikely." APHIS developed requirements that growers had to follow if handling glyphosate-resistant sugar beet while it was regulated. In July 2012, after completing an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Plant Pest Risk Assessment the USDA deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets again.
2009 antitrust investigation
In 2009, Monsanto came under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, which began investigating whether the company's activities in the soybean markets were breaking anti-trust rules. In 2010, the Department of Justice created a website through which comments on "Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy" could be submitted; over 15,000 comments were submitted including a letter by 14 State Attorneys General. The comments are publicly available. On November 16, 2012, Monsanto announced that it had received written notification from the U.S. Department of Justice that the Antitrust Division had concluded its inquiry and that the Department of Justice had closed the inquiry without taking any enforcement action. Opponents of Monsanto's seed patenting and licensing practices expressed frustration that the Department of Justice released no information about the results of the inquiry.
Not a party, but involved
1997 WTVT news story
This is a case where Monsanto was not a party, but was alleged to have been involved in the events under dispute. In 1997, the news division of WTVT (Channel 13), a Fox–owned station in Tampa, Florida, planned to air an investigative report by Steve Wilson and Jane Akre on the health risks allegedly associated with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone product, Posilac. Just before the story was to air, Fox received a threatening letter from Monsanto, saying the reporters were biased and that the story would damage the company. Fox tried to work with the reporters to address Monsanto's concerns, and the negotiations between Fox and the reporters broke down. Both reporters were eventually fired. Wilson and Akre alleged the firing was for retaliation, while WTVT contended they were fired for insubordination. The reporters then sued Fox/WTVT in Florida state court under the state's whistleblower statute. In 2000, a Florida jury found that while there was no evidence Fox/WTVT had bowed to any pressure from Monsanto to alter the story, Akre, but not Wilson, was a whistleblower and was unjustly fired. Fox appealed the decision stating that under Florida law, a whistleblower can only act if "a law, rule, or regulation”" has been broken and argued that the FCC's news distortion policy did not fit that definition. The appeals court overturned the verdict, finding that Akre was not a whistleblower because of the Florida "legislature's requirement that agency statements that fit the definition of a “rule” (must) be formally adopted (rules). Recognizing an uncodified agency policy developed through the adjudicative process as the equivalent of a formally adopted rule is not consistent with this policy, and it would expand the scope of conduct that could subject an employer to liability beyond what Florida's Legislature could have contemplated when it enacted the whistle-blower's statute."
Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories scandal
In 1981, four executives of Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories(IBT), an American contract research organization were indicted in federal court on various counts including scientific misconduct and fraud, and were convicted in 1983. IBT was an industrial product safety testing laboratory that was used by pharmaceutical companies, chemical manufacturers and other industrial clients, operated one of the largest facility of its kind in the US, and performed more than one-third of all toxicology testing in the United States. One of convicted executives was Paul Wright, a toxicologist, who had spent 18 months at IBT in the 1970s while IBT was testing an antimicrobial product that Monsanto was developing, triclocarban(TCC). The revelations of misconduct by IBT Labs led to the establishment of Good Laboratory Practice standards and regulations for industrial testing.
In 1991, Philip Smith, a former assistant toxicologist at IBT, testified in a trial in which Monsanto was being sued by workers at Westinghouse over PCBs, that final toxicology reports on PCBs provided to Monsanto by IBT contained falsified data.
Legal actions and controversies outside North America
GM soy was approved for cultivation in Argentina in 1996. When Argentina approved the cultivation of GMO in 1996 14 million acres were used for soy production and by 2008 that area grew to 42 million acres. The growth was driven by Argentine investors' interest in buying or leasing land on which to grow soy for the export market. The consolidation has led to a decrease in production of many staples such as milk, rice, maize, potatoes and lentils, and as of 2004 about 150,000 small farmers had left the countryside; by 2009 in the Chaco region, 50% were displaced.
The Guardian newspaper interviewed a Monsanto representative and reported that the representative "said that 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.'"
In 2005 and 2006, Monsanto addressed unlicensed use of its patented "Roundup Ready" technology by farmers and companies in Argentina by enforcing its patents on soymeal imported into Spain from Argentina, which obligated Spanish customs officials to seize the soymeal shipments.
In 2013, tensions arose between environmentalist groups, on one side, and Monsanto and the government of Córdoba, on the other. The company, with the local authorities' consent, is building a corn seed conditioning facility in Malvinas Argentinas, Córdoba and neighbours have denounced the risk of environmental impact. Despite court rulings which have decided the enterprise could continue to build the facilities, environmentalist groups have organised demonstrations and have opened an online petition for the subject to be decided on a popular referendum. Nevertheless, the court rulings have also stipulated that while construction can continue, the facility could not begin operating until the environmental impact report required by law is dutifully presented.
Brazil had originally approved GM crops in 1998 but Brazilian advocacy groups had successfully sued to overturn the approval. In 2003 Brazil allowed a one-year exemption when GM soy was found in fields planted in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. 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. In 2005 Brazil passed a law creating a regulatory pathway for GM crops, and the agriculture minister Roberto Rodrigues stated that "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."
After the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, Monsanto donated $255,000 to Haiti for disaster relief and 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid (non-GM) corn and vegetable seeds worth $4 million. 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 should be introduced only on a small scale.
The announcement of the donation initially raised concerns that the donation would include genetically modified seeds, but Monsanto representatives said no such seeds were included and the donation comprised conventional seed and hybrid seeds, which are produced by manually cross-pollinating plants. A report by Haiti Grassroots Watch (HGW) investigated the donation and responses to it. Emmanuel Prophete, head of Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture's Service National Semencier (SNS), told HGW that SNS was not opposed to the hybrid maize seeds because it at least doubles the yield of corn. 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 require extra water and better soils and that most of Haiti was not appropriate for maize hybrids.
Activists expressed concern 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 own adequate protection. Activists alleged that the coated seeds were handled in a dangerous manner by the recipients and judged that such seeds should not have been donated.
The seeds were donated free of charge, and were in turn sold at a reduced price in local markets. However, farmers feared that they were being given seeds that would "threaten local varieties" 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.
Monsanto's GM cotton seed was the subject of NGO agitation because of its higher cost. Indian farmers cross GM varieties with local varieties using plant breeding to yield better strains, an illegal practice termed "seed piracy". In 2009, high prices of Bt Cotton were blamed for forcing farmers of the district Jhabua into severe debts when the crops died due to lack of rain.
In 2009, Monsanto scientists initially discovered that insects had developed resistance to the Bt Cotton planted in Gujarat and when studies were completed, 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." The company advised farmers to switch to its second generation of Bt cotton – Bolguard II – which had two resistance genes instead of one. However, this advice was criticized; an article in The Hindu reported that "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.'"
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, public attention was drawn to suicides by indebted farmers in India following crop failures. For example, in the early 2000s, farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh, were in economic crisis due to high interest rates and crop failures, leading to widespread social unrest and suicides. Monsanto was one focus of protests with respect to the price of Bt seed 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 Andhra Pradesh and ruled that Monsanto could not market those strains in Andhra Pradesh because the yields were poor, and extended the ban on one of them, Mech-12 Bt, to all of south India. At about the same time, the state agriculture minister barred the company from selling any Bt cotton seeds in the state, because Monsanto refused a request by the state government to provide a compensation package of about Rs 4.5 crore (about one million USD) to indebted farmers in some districts, and because the government blamed Monsanto's Bt seeds for crop failures. The order was later lifted. In 2006, the Andhra Pradesh state government tried to convince Monsanto to reduce the price at which it sold Bt seeds. When Monsanto did not reduce the price enough to satisfy the government, the state filed several cases against Monsanto and its Mumbai based licensee Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds. Research by International Food Policy Research Institute, an agriculture policy think tank based in Washington DC, stated that there was no evidence for an increased suicide rate following the 2002 introduction of Bt cotton, and that Bt cotton was effective in India. The report stated that farmer suicides predate the official commercial introduction of Bt cotton by Monsanto Mahyco in 2002 (and its unofficial introduction by Navbharat Seeds in 2001) and that such suicides were a fairly constant portion of the overall national suicide rate since 1997. 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. As of 2009, 87% of Indian cotton-growing land was used for Bt cotton.
Critics, including Vandana Shiva, said that the crop failures could "often be traced to" Monsanto's Bt cotton, and that the seeds increased farmers' indebtedness, and argued that Monsanto misrepresented the profitability of their genetically modified cotton, Bt Cotton, causing farmers to suffer losses leading to debt. In 2009, Dr. Shiva wrote that Indian farmers who had previously spent as little as ₹7 (rupees) per kilogram were now paying up to ₹17,000 per kilo per year after switching to Bt cotton. More recently, 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 they issued an advisory stating that “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.”
In 2004, in response to a request from the All India Biodynamic and Organic Farming Association, the Mumbai High Court required the Tata Institute to produce a report on farmer suicides in Maharashtra, and the institute submitted its report in March 2005. 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."
Various studies identify 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. The 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.
As in much of the developing world and especially in agricultural areas, child labor is widespread in India's agricultural sector, which employs ~60% of India's child labor. Child labor is especially used in seed production. The seed production is done mostly through child labor—it is carried out on plots owned by small farmers, who sell the seed to "seed organizers", who in turn sell the seed to public and private seed agencies and companies. The public and private agencies and companies include Indian state corporations, Mahyco-Monsanto, Syngenta, and others. Monsanto's website states that the company complies with all child labor laws and that they are working towards minimizing its occurrence.
In 1996, the New York Times reported that: "Dennis C. Vacco, the Attorney General of New York, ordered the company to pull ads that said Roundup was "safer than table salt" and "practically nontoxic" to mammals, birds and fish. The company withdrew the spots, but also said that the phrase in question was permissible under E.P.A. guidelines."
In 1999, Monsanto was condemned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making "confusing, misleading, unproven and wrong" claims about its products over the course of a £1 million advertising campaign. The ASA ruled that Monsanto had presented its opinions "as accepted fact" and had published "wrong" and "unproven" scientific claims. Monsanto responded with an apology and claimed it was not intending to deceive and instead "did not take sufficiently into account the difference in culture between the UK and the USA in the way some of this information was presented."
In 2001, French environmental and consumer rights campaigners brought a case against Monsanto for misleading the public about the environmental impact of its herbicide Roundup, on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" and "toxic for aquatic organisms" by the European Union. Monsanto's advertising for Roundup had presented it as biodegradable and as leaving the soil clean after use. In 2007, Monsanto was convicted of false advertising and was fined 15,000 euros. Monsanto's French distributor Scotts France was also fined 15,000 euros. Both defendants were ordered to pay damages of 5,000 euros to the Brittany Water and Rivers Association and 3,000 euros to the CLCV (Consommation Logement Cadre de vie), one of the two main general consumer associations in France. Monsanto appealed and the court upheld the verdict; Monsanto appealed again to the French Supreme Court, and in 2009 it also upheld the verdict.
In August 2012, a Brazilian Regional Federal Court ordered Monsanto to pay a $250,000 fine for false advertising. In 2004, advertising that related to the use of GM soya seed, and the herbicide glyphosate used in its cultivation, claimed it was beneficial to the conservation of the environment. The federal prosecutor maintained that Monsanto misrepresented the amount of herbicide required and stated that "there is no scientific certainty that soybeans marketed by Monsanto use less herbicide." The presiding judge condemned Monsanto and called the advertisement "abusive and misleading propaganda." The prosecutor held that the goal of the advertising was to prepare the market for the purchase of genetically modified soybean seed (sale of which was then banned) and the herbicide used on it, at a time when the approval of a Brazilian Biosafety Law, enacted in 2005, was being discussed in the country.
March Against Monsanto protests
A worldwide protest against Monsanto and GMOs took place on May 25, 2013. The number of protesters who took part is uncertain; figures of "hundreds of thousands" or "two million" were variously cited. According to organizers, protesters in 436 cities and 52 countries took part.
The March Against Monsanto 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 counties on six continents. The day of protest took place on May 24, 2014.
Political contributions and lobbying
Monsanto lobbies the United States Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about regulations that would affect the production and distribution of genetically engineered produce. In 2011, Monsanto spent about $6.3 million. In comparison, the 20th highest spender, Pfizer, spent $12.9 million. US diplomats in Europe have worked directly for Monsanto. In 2008, Monsanto spent $8.8 million for lobbying. $1.5 million was to outside lobbying firms with the remainder used by in-house lobbyists. In 2011, total money spent on lobbying was about $6.3 million, more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria, and $2 million of which was spent on matters concerning "Foreign Agriculture Biotechnology Laws, Regulations, and Trade."
Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) – 42% to Democrats, 58% to Republicans. For the 2010 election cycle they gave $305,749 – 48% to Democrats, 52% to Republicans.
Monsanto spent $8.1 million opposing the passage of Proposition 37 in the US state of California, making it the largest donor against the initiative. Proposition 37, which was rejected by a 53.7% majority in November 2012, would have mandated the disclosure of genetically modified crops used in the production of California food products. Biotechnology labeling is not required by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it has been adopted by over 40 countries. According to public disclosures, the Council for Biotechnology Information and The Grocery Manufacturers Association, have each made matching donations of $375,000 to fight the initiative.
Michael R. Taylor, a former Monsanto Vice President for Public Policy and the current Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, was described by Businessweek during his tenure as Monsanto's VP for Public Policy as "Monsanto's chief rep in Washington."
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." Between 2010 and 2011 BIO spent a total of $16.43 million on lobbying initiatives.
The Farmer Assurance Provision (known as Monsanto Protection Act by critics) was part of a bill to provide continued funding to the federal government in the ongoing US budget stalemate, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 26, 2013. It expires at the end of the federal fiscal year, on September 20, 2013. NPR stated that "the provision authorizes the USDA to grant "temporary" permission for GMO crops to be planted, even if a judge has ruled that such crops were not properly approved, only while the necessary environmental reviews are completed. That's an authority that the USDA has, in fact, already exercised in the past." It was originally included as Section 733 in the June 2012 initial draft of the FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill.:86–87 Politico reported that Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) authored the provision, and "said he worked with the company (Monsanto) and had a valuable partner in the late chairman, Inouye, who was sympathetic given Monsanto’s large seed operations in Hawaii." The bill's sole dissenter, Senator John Tester (D-MT), proposed an amendment to remove it from the bill, but it never went to a vote. Before the provision was passed, supporters said that "opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed suits against USDA on procedural grounds in order to disrupt the regulatory process and undermine the science‐based regulation of such products... Activist groups have made it clear they will continue to use the court system to challenge regulatory approvals of corn, soybean and other biotechnology‐derived crops, and have openly stated their intention to use litigation as a way to impede the availability of new technology to growers and consumers....If enacted, growers would be assured that the crops they plant could continue to be grown, subject to appropriate interim conditions, even after a judicial ruling against USDA. Moreover, the language would apply only to products that have already satisfactorily completed the U.S. regulatory review process and does not remove or restrict anyone’s right to challenge USDA once a determination of no plant pest risk has been made. Opponents described it as" hidden backroom deal" and after it passed the Senate, more than 250,000 petitioners signed a petition for President Obama to veto the bill on the premise that it "effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified... seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future". In September 2013, the controversial provision was removed from the Senate version of the bill.
The Monsanto Company Citizenship Fund aka Monsanto Citizenship Fund is a political action committee from Monsanto that has donated over $10 million to various candidates since 2003.
More recently, as of October 2013, Monsanto and DuPont Co. are backing an anti-labeling campaign with roughly $18 million so far dedicated to the campaign. Washington along with 26 other states have proposals coming up in November to require labels on Genetically Modified Foods
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 American governments to lift levels to 20 milligrams per 1 kilogram of soya.: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.":265 During a period of 24 months prior to the 1997 British election Monsanto representatives had 22 meetings at the departments of Agriculture and the Environment.:266 British newspapers revealed that Stanley Greenberg, an election advisor to Tony Blair, went on to work as a Monsanto consultant.:266 It was also reported that a former Labour spokesperson, David Hill, became Monsanto's media adviser at the lobbying firm Bell Pottinger.: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 stated that Department of Trade and Industry had two working lunches with Monsanto.:267 It was also revealed that Peter Luff, then a Conservative Party MP and Chairman of the Agriculture Select Committee, had received up to £10,000 a year from Bell Pottinger on behalf of Monsanto.:266
In January 2011, John Vidal of The Guardian reported on Wikileak documents that suggested US diplomats in Europe were responding to a request for help from Spanish government; the article says: "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.'" The documents show that in 2009, when the Spanish government's policy allowing MON810 corn to be grown, as allowed under European law, 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. The reports also indicated that Spain and the US had worked closely together to "persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws." Spain was viewed as an EU member that was a key supporter of GM and there was a widespread belief in biotechnology industry that "if Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow." The documents also revealed that in response to an attempt by France to ban a Monsanto's MON810 in late 2007, the then US ambassador to France, Craig Roberts Stapleton, in a bid to "help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," asked Washington to "calibrate a targeted retaliation list that [would cause] some pain across the EU," in particular those countries that did not support the use of GM crops. 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.
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", and it has stated that there is "an urgent need to reshape the terms of the debate about GM in Europe." In an effort to transform European policy relating to the production and distribution of genetically modified foods within the EU, EuropaBio proposed the recruitment of high profile "ambassadors" that might affect opinion on GM policy by lobbying European leaders directly. The organisation also aimed to introduce the ambassadors to high-level European bureaucrats and MEPs with the goal of making a stronger case for GM within the EU.
U.S. public officials' connections to Monsanto
A number of people have held positions at Monsanto and in US government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Supreme Court at various points in their careers. Critics of Monsanto have said that the interconnections between the company and the US government have allowed Monsanto to profit by favorable regulations at the expense of customer safety. On the other hand, supporters of the practice of individuals moving between government sector and the private sector point to the need for competent and experienced individuals in both sectors and to the importance of appropriately managing conflicts of interest that such cross-sector movements may cause.:16–23 The list of such people includes:
- Earle H. Harbison, Jr. served with the Central Intelligence Agency for 18 years, rising to the rank of Deputy Director, after which he had a career at Monsanto, rising to the roles of President, Chief Operating Officer, and Director of Monsanto, which he held from 1986 to 1993.
- Michael A. Friedman, MD, was Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Medical and Public Policy for Pharmacia, and later served as an FDA deputy commissioner.
- Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before she was a vice president at Monsanto from 1995 to 2000. In 2001, Fisher became the deputy administrator of the EPA.
- Michael R. Taylor was an assistant to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner before working as an attorney for King & Spalding, a private-sector law firm that represented Monsanto among other clients. He later served as deputy commissioner for policy to the FDA on food safety between 1991 and 1994 during which time the FDA approved rBST. He was accused of a conflict of interest, but a federal investigation cleared him. Following his tenure at the FDA, Taylor returned to Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy. On July 7, 2009, Taylor entered government as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration for the Obama administration.
- United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the 2001 Supreme Court decision J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. which found that "newly developed plant breeds are patentable under the general utility patent laws of the United States."
- Mickey Kantor served on Monsanto's board after serving in government as a trade representative.
- William D. Ruckelshaus served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, was subsequently acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then Deputy Attorney General of the United States. From 1983 to 1985, he returned as EPA administrator. After leaving government he joined the Board of Directors of Monsanto; he is currently retired from that board.
- Between serving for Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was chairman and chief executive officer of G. D. Searle & Company, a pharmaceutical company which produced aspartame apparently while working on an ulcer drug. Monsanto bought the company in 1985, and re-branded aspartame as NutraSweet. Rumsfeld's stock and options in Searle were $12 million USD at the time of the transaction.
- Monsanto is a client of the Lincoln Policy Group, a lobbying group created by former chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Blanche Lincoln after she lost her re-election bid in 2011. Robert Holifield, who was chief of staff on that committee, is a partner in the group.
Monsanto has been the corporate sponsor of attractions at Disneyland, namely:
- Hall of Chemistry (1955 to 1966)
- Monsanto House of the Future (from 1957 to 1967)
- Fashions and Fabrics through the Years (from 1965 to 1966)
- Adventure Thru Inner Space (from 1967 to 1986)
- Biological patents in the United States
- Genetically modified food controversies
- Pioneer Hi-Bred International
- Temporal analysis of products
- Bitter Seeds
- Genetic Roulette - The Gamble of Our Lives
- Food, Inc.
- The Corporation
- The World According to Monsanto (Video on YouTube)
- The Future of Food
- David Vs. Monsanto
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