Who or what is Monsanto

Monsanto Company, Monsanto Agrar Germany GmbH
Corporate form Corporation
founding November 29, 1901
Company headquarters St. Louis, Missouri

Corporate management

Hugh Grant (chairman, president and chief executive officer)

Employee 13.700
Products (genetically modified) seeds, (agro) chemicals
Website monsanto.com, monsanto.de

Monsanto is a listed company based in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Among other things, he manufactures sweeteners, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. The company had 2005 sales of $ 6.3 billion and net income of $ 255 million. Monsanto is listed on the S&P 500 stock index.


Monsanto was founded in 1901 as a chemical manufacturer. At the beginning, the company mainly produced the sweetener saccharin and the stimulating substance caffeine. It was not until 1940 that the agricultural sector was established, and Monsanto developed into a specialist in agrochemicals and genetically modified seeds. For example, the group developed crops that are resistant to its own herbicides and pests.

Since the 1940s, Monsanto produced, among other things. polychlorinated biphenyls and Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), a growth hormone used to increase the milk yield of cattle. In the 1960s and 1970s, during the Vietnam War, Monsanto was an important supplier of the dioxin-contaminated herbicide Agent Orange, which is classified as a chemical warfare agent. A lawsuit brought by the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange against Monsanto and other chemical companies was rejected by a US federal court in March 2005.

Since 1999, Monsanto has bought seed companies around the world for more than $ 13 billion. On January 25, 2005, Monsanto acquired the California-based fruit and vegetable seed producer Seminis for $ 1.4 billion. With sales of more than four billion euros, Monsanto is the second largest seed supplier worldwide after DuPont and the largest supplier of genetically modified seeds with a 90 percent market share.

In the United States, Monsanto has acquired major patents on genetic engineering methods and genes since 1980.

Legal disputes

Monsanto has become known in the past for being involved in a variety of high-profile legal battles. It has received over hundreds of millions of dollars in class action lawsuits including the health effects of its products, fines, and compensation obligations. On the other hand, Monsanto often uses the courts to enforce its patent claims in the field of biotechnology.

Lawsuits against Monsanto

As early as 1917, the American state sued Monsanto over the dangerousness of the company's first product, saccharin. Only after several years was the state defeated.

Former American soldiers who came into contact with Monsanto's defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are trying to seize the company because of its harmful side effects; the lawsuit is pending in American courts.

In February 2002, Monsanto was found guilty of willful exposure of residents of the city of Anniston, Alabama, to the harmful by-products of PCB production for years. (Although this was forbidden by law as early as 1976, the process dragged on for decades.) Thousands of victims are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, with payments totaling US $ 700 million[1][2].

In October 2004, the French company RAGT Génétique withdrew the European plant variety protection for conventional wheat breeding Galatea which it had taken over from Monsanto along with the entire European wheat and barley business. However, the cultivation did not come from Monsanto, but from Unilever and was bought by Monsanto in 1998. It is controversial whether this is actually a new cross between a European wheat variety and the traditional Indian variety Nap Hal, or whether it is the variety Nap Hal itself, bred by Indian farmers, for which a European plant variety protection is now being obtained through an incorrect description should. Greenpeace accused Monsanto of the latter and rates the withdrawal by RAGT Génétique as a victory, the company itself gives economic reasons.

Since 2004, Monsanto has also been involved in several legal proceedings with Syngenta, the Swiss company, the world's largest agro-chemical company. Syngenta accuses Monsanto, among other things, of infringing patents.[3]

On May 4, 2007, the beekeeper Karl-Heinz Bablok from Kaisheim near Donauwörth won a victory against the cultivation of genetically modified MON810 maize from the manufacturer Monsanto before the Augsburg Administrative Court. In a sample of the pollen taken on May 12, 2006 from one of its bee colonies, which was around 200 meters from a genetically modified maize field at the state research facility in Neuhof near Kaisheim, a proportion of 4.1 percent genetically modified pollen was found. According to current EU law, the honey produced from this was therefore included "Contains genetically modified organisms" to be marked. The decision under the file number Au 7 E 07.259 explains, among other things, that Bablok has to reckon with considerable disadvantages because the introduction of genetically modified pollen means that his food is no longer marketable or consumable.

Monsanto as the plaintiff

Since the mid-1990s, Monsanto has sued around 150 American farmers for infringing its patents on genetically modified seeds. This usually involves the allegation that the farmers are keeping seeds from the harvest in order to use them for sowing next year, which is inadmissible due to their contracts with Monsanto. Monsanto is actively working to detect such incidents, and has sought help from farmers to do this, set up a free hotline to report violations, and hired detectives. According to the company, around 500 suspected cases are investigated every year.

In Canada, a case caused a sensation that was brought up to the Supreme Court. In 1998, Monsanto accused the farmer Percy Schmeiser of unjustifiably cultivating a genetically modified variant of the rape variety Canola, which is resistant to the herbicide Roundup, in violation of a Monsanto patent. Apparently some of Schmeiser's grain had been contaminated by seeds that had fallen from passing trucks or blown over from nearby fields of other farmers. He then specifically cultivated them in a special area and exploited them commercially. The 2004 supreme court ruling did not impose any license payments or punitive damages on the farmer because he had not benefited from the special properties of the Roundup-resistant rapeseed variety, but stated that in principle he did not have the right to knowingly cultivate the patented variety just because she happened to appear on his land.[4]

Monsanto is also trying to prevent the free use of its genetically modified seeds outside of North America. Monsanto is also paying special attention to Argentina, where, according to the company, 30 percent of soybean producers illegally use Monsanto products.[5]

In 2004, Monsanto took legal action against an advertising campaign by Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine, which claimed that the milk used was from cows that had not received Monsanto's rBGH growth hormone. Monsanto considered this advertising claim to be detrimental to business. The two companies agreed out of court on a changed wording.[6]

Criticism of the company

Monsanto researches, produces and sells genetically modified seeds. Currently 90 percent of all GM crops grown worldwide come from Monsanto. It has been criticized that the company's water and aquaculture businesses also pursued the goal of monopolizing the resources essential for survival and turning them into a market.

Monsanto is intensifying its efforts to expand its market position in the production of food and seeds, which critics have described as a global monopoly. For example, the farmers' contractual ties to the company are criticized, which forbids them to reuse their own harvest as seeds and allows far-reaching control of the farmers in order to prevent patent infringements. In the event of a conflict, farmers are also not permitted to speak to third parties. Furthermore, these farmers must contractually undertake not to sue Monsanto in the event of crop or yield losses (e.g. decline in fertility in breeding pigs).

Monsanto is increasingly appearing as a buyer of seed manufacturers. The aim is obviously to achieve a dominant position in this area as well.

Intervention in democratic processes

A mixture of Monsanto's activities and politics is also criticized: leading members of the British Labor Party are said to have invested heavily in the gene industry and employees of American federal authorities switched to Monsanto and back into politics.[7]

In Mexico there is a law that is named after Monsanto ("Ley Monsanto", Spanish Wikipedia) because it suits the interests of the group.[8][9] Such an initiative was also launched in Peru in 2006.[10]

Terminator technology and sterile hybrids

The Terminator technology developed by Monsanto is widely recognized by its critics, e. B. Vandana Shiva viewed as life-despising technology. Outcrossing of terminator genes to surrounding plants results in sterile seeds. In this way, bystanders are also harmed.

Monsanto offers so-called hybrid seeds, which cannot be used for sowing again after harvest. These seeds are intended to ensure that Monsanto buys annual replenishments. This practice is very controversial, especially in the Third World. Hybrid seeds are to be distinguished from the genetic engineering process known as terminator technology. Hybrids are obtained in a breeding process by crossing.

Media censorship

Under the brand name Posilac, Monsanto sells a growth hormone to increase the milk yield of cattle (Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin - rbST), which (among other things) increases the likelihood of udder infections and thus requires the increased use of antibiotics. Furthermore, there is a suspicion that residues in cow's milk can also damage human health. When the two Fox journalists Steve Wilson and Jane Akre wanted to report on it in 1996, their employer Fox bowed to the strong pressure from Monsanto, kept the report, which had been corrected 83 times under the supervision of Monsanto's lawyers, but was originally critical of Monsanto, under lock and key, and dismissed the report two reporters finally. The background to this case is covered in the Canadian documentary "The Corporation".

Excerpts from the Posilac package insert:

  • 1.) Fertility: decrease in fertility, increase in ovarian cysts, diseases of the uterus,
  • 2.) high additional risk of inflammation of the udder, which makes the use of antibiotics indispensable
  • 3.) General condition: increased need for medication, possibility of digestive disorders, disturbed food intake, ankle swelling
  • 4.) Reaction at the puncture site: swelling 3-5 cm up to 10 cm (can last 6 weeks).

The quality of the milk also suffers: the composition of the fats and proteins changes, the vitamin content decreases.

The growth hormone appears in the milk and in the meat of animals and is consumed by humans through this route.

The hormone is used in a third of all dairy cows in the USA, it is banned in the EU and Canada, but it is assumed that it has long been imported and used in third countries to increase milk yield.


Monsanto held a patent on the active ingredient glyphosate, which has been used in agriculture as a total herbicide since 1974 under the brand name Roundup. Monsanto has patent rights on genetically modified crops (e.g. soy and cotton) that have been made resistant to Roundup - so-called Roundup-Ready crops. Roundup is now the best-selling total herbicide worldwide.

Contrary to original statements, however, the (exclusive) use of Roundup is now leading to resistances, so that the farmers involved are continually moving away from the original cost reduction in herbicide use. Furthermore, two studies from 2002 suggest that the increased use of the herbicide leads to an increased number of malformations during pregnancy.[11]


  1. "Monsanto Hid Decades Of Pollution. PCBs Drenched Ala. Town, But No One Was Ever Told, "Washington Post, Jan. 1, 2002 (on the Anniston Trial)
  2. Article on the Anniston process on the Organic Consumers Association website
  3. Syngenta files lawsuit to enforce biotechnology patents, Syngenta AG, July 26, 2002
  4. Decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Monsanto Canada Inc./. Schmeiser
  5. "'Terminator' Technology Keeps GM Crops in Check", New Scientist / agbioworld.org, February 26, 2005
  6. "Maine Dairy Caves In to Pressure from Monsanto on rBGH-Free Labeling," Organic Consumers Association, December 25, 2003, on the out-of-court settlement between Monsanto and Oakhurst Dairy
  7. “Poor pig - the business with the genetic material”, WDR, October 9, 2006
  8. Current situation regarding GM maize in Mexico, February 14, 2005, Ulrike Kraner on Chiapas98.de
  9. "Niño verde - The green child", Heinrich Böll Foundation, July 4, 2006
  10. "Stop the Monsanto law in Peru!", Agricultural group of attac, July 19, 2006
  11. Monsanto News → see: September 25, 2002


  • "Poison on offer - the success story of the US multinational Monsanto." Documentation, 30 min., A film by Manfred Ladwig, production: SWR, first broadcast: June 27, 2007, synopsis by prisma.de
  • "Poor pig - the business with the genetic material." Documentation, 45 min., A film by Christian Jentzsch, production: WDR, first broadcast: October 9, 2006, synopsis from WDR, GoogleVideo
Contributions from Greenpeace
  • List of Monsanto plant patents registered and granted in Europe, Greenpeace Germany, as of April 2005, pdf file
  • "Monsanto scandal chronicle", Greenpeace Germany
  • Genetic engineering, Greenpeace Group Aachen
  • Monsanto versus Schmeiser, Greenpeace Switzerland, February 25, 2002, pdf file
Article from Telepolis
  • “EU legal experts help Argentina against Monsanto”, Telepolis, August 16, 2006
  • "Monsanto is in a hurry." Telepolis, August 12, 2005 (Monsanto tries to sue for approval of MON 810)
  • "Bribe and rip off?" Telepolis, January 13, 2005, "The genetic engineering giant Monsanto has to pay $ 1.5 million in fines because Indonesian officials were bribed."
  • "Burned earth. Monsanto, India and the Resistance to GM Food, ”Telepolis, December 28, 1998

Categories: Chemical Companies (United States) | Biotechnology company