We Still Haven’t Properly Reckoned With Monsanto’s Destruction


Tom Philpott 3 days ago

Once the lion of U.S. agriculture, Monsanto skulked off the historical stage and into the maw of its longtime rival Bayer, the sprawling German conglomerate, in 2018. The takeover marked a quiet exit for one the 21st century’s most controversial corporations—one that became embroiled in a pay-for-research academic scandal that made the New York Times’ front page, triggered an annual global “March against Monsanto” in the 2010s, and generated two massive sets of lawsuits regarding its blockbuster herbicides, glyphosate and dicamba.

The brand and most of the media frenzy around Monsanto have evaporated, but the products that made the company worth $66 billion at the time of its sale linger. Glyphosate, whether carcinogenic or not—the question remains fiercely debated—turns up in rain and streams near farm fields, in grain-based food products like cereal and pasta, and probably in your body. In 2021, farmer complaints about off-target damage from dicamba raged through farm country for the sixth straight year. Seeds genetically altered by the company’s technicians to withstand those chemicals still proliferate in fields, in three crops (corn, soybeans, and cotton) that collectively cover more than half of U.S. farmland. These commodities form the material basis of our food supply: the feed for meat animals, and the sweeteners, fats, and thickeners that make processed foods so irresistible.

What was Monsanto—how did it claw its way to such a central place in the food system, and what does its continued existence as an appendage of a German multinational corporation mean for our sustenance and the natural resources it relies on?

In his new book, Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future, Bartow J. Elmore has delivered the definitive historical account of a firm with a momentous history and an afterlife that makes it as relevant as ever. An environmental and business historian at Ohio State University, Elmore wrote Seed Money for a nonacademic audience—in clear, brisk prose, with an eye for the telling anecdote.

The story starts in the early century, when a drug salesman named John Queeny dreamed of launching a U.S. firm that could break the dominance of German giants like (ironically) Bayer in budding field of synthetic organic chemistry, which involved synthesizing old and inventing new compounds with fossil carbon sources like coal and petroleum. Queeny’s startup, named for his wife, Olga Mendez Monsanto, a descendent of European aristocrats, found a lucrative business line selling saccharin and caffeine to Coca-Cola. It soon shifted to industrial chemicals.

The year 1997 marks a pivotal moment in Elmore’s tale. At that point, Monsanto was a conglomerate with legacy industrial-chemicals business lines that had generated billions of dollars in profits over the decades, but were then mired in lawsuits over toxicity claims. The company’s executives cannily decided to bundle the troublesome divisions into a new firm called Solutia, spinning it out as an independent company whose assets included facilities used to make polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, the highly toxic, environmentally persistent industrial chemicals; and Agent Orange, the grizzly defoliant used by the U.S. military at a vast scale—and great profit to Monsanto—during the Vietnam War. Monsanto “saddled the spinoff with $1 billion in debt and major environmental liabilities,” Elmore reports. Then its executives pitched the remnant as a reborn company based on “Food, Faith, Hope”—which became an instant stock market darling.

To the very end, the company and its boosters would cling to the distinction between “old” Monsanto, which ruthlessly profited by synthesizing highly poisonous compounds from fossil resources like coal and petroleum, and the “new” one, a virtuous player that used cutting-edge biotechnology to develop the tools necessary to “feed the world.”

From the start, the line between the two was murky. One old-line asset the firm did not palm off on Solutia was its blockbuster glyphosate herbicide. Developed in 1970 by a Monsanto scientist, glyphosate promised a miracle cure to farmers’ weed problems because it killed pretty much all vegetation with seemingly low toxicity to humans. (It works by jamming up plants’ ability to produce an enzyme necessary for making vital amino acids, the building blocks of protein. That’s a strategy for nourishment that plants share with fungi and bacteria, but not insects, birds, fish, or mammals, all of which simply consume protein.)

Branded “Roundup,” for its ability to clean all the weeds from a field, the chemical hit the market in 1974 and became an instant sensation in farm country. Then and now, Roundup production relies on a division deeply rooted in Monsanto’s past as an industrial chemicals titan: its phosphorus-mining operations, first in Florida and Tennessee, and later in Idaho. In these regions, “millions of years ago, aquatic creatures once roamed inland seas,” Elmore writes. “Now, these phosphorous-rich bones would seed a new chemical industry.” Monsanto had turned these deposits into a blockbuster business line by selling phosphate-laced detergents, which by the 1960s had come under attack for polluting waterways because phosphorus feeds algae blooms. With the creation of Roundup—which relies on phosphate as a key ingredient—Monsanto exited the detergent business and shunted the output of its Idaho mines into the new herbicide.

In the early 1980s, with legal liabilities from its PCB and Agent Orange operations mounting, petroleum prices skyrocketing, and oil firms big-footing their way into the chemical trade, Monsanto execs decided it was time for a change. That’s when the firm made its foray into the emerging field of seed biotechnology, in search of product lines that were “less dependent on raw material costs” and had a “strong proprietary character,” Elmore reports, quoting a company honcho in 1982.

The new division’s great goal was to engineer crops that could withstand Roundup, which would allow farmers to spray the chemical on their fields throughout the growing season. The Roundup Ready line of seeds—developed from genes found in bacteria outside of Monsanto’s Louisiana glyphosate factory—took U.S. farm country by storm starting in the mid-1990s, proliferating in three pervasive crops: corn, soybeans, and cotton. This caused Roundup sales to spike and opened a new, highly profitable revenue stream: premium-priced, patent-protected seeds. The triumph pushed the new Monsanto into the stratosphere, with a dominant position in the seed trade and a thriving herbicide division to boot.

Robert Shapiro, the CEO who guided the company through the Solutia spinoff and into its biotech future, positioned the company as an information technology player, a kind of cornfield Microsoft. He promised to a confab of environmental journalists in 1995 that Roundup Ready tech would enable farmers to reduce herbicide use because Monsanto’s product would sort out their weed problems. “Putting information in the gene of a plant,” he declared, would stifle the cascade of chemicals unleashed by the post–World War II rise of industrial agriculture and lead to a new era of high-tech, low-impact farming.

By 2008, the company had risen to a position of supremacy over U.S. farm fields, its soybean, corn, and cotton traits having gained near-monopoly status and Roundup sales booming. Responding to real and imagined concerns about the triumph of genetically modified crops, as well as mounting evidence that climate change would imperil global food production, Monsanto positioned itself as the corporation with the key to feeding humanity and staving off global hunger. The company issued a press release promising to “double yield in its three core crops of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030, compared to a base year of 2000,” while also reducing by one-third the amount of water and fertilizer required to grow them.

But as Elmore amply demonstrates, “the ‘new’ Monsanto was not actually all that new.” Its fate remained tethered to the production of a chemical based on fossil resources—mined phosphate—buried deep underground, and on the ability of that chemical to be copiously sprayed across vast swaths of the landscape, with hope it wouldn’t cause harm.

Seed Money documents in devastating detail the consequences of that triumph: the highly predictable (but denied for years by Monsanto) rise of weeds that evolved to resist Roundup, credible suspicions that Roundup is more toxic than the company originally let on, the deluge of older and more toxic herbicides that were deployed in a futile attempt to control those superweeds, and a festering legal dispute over the company’s phosphate mines in Idaho, which have “contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals and radioactive constituents,” as the Environmental Protection Agency has found.

As for the 2008 promise that Monsanto’s wonder seeds would double yields while cutting fertilizer and water use by 2030? The company never came close. A 2020 Purdue University assessment found “little to no evidence” that GMO traits have done anything to boost yields since their introduction in the mid-1990s. Indeed, the “new” Monsanto exited the stage in much the same shape as the “old” one: facing billions of dollars of legal liabilities for its products, which are now Bayer’s problem.

Seed Money brims with startling details about this storied company. But here’s the most eye-popping of all: The company that knowingly marketing PCBs, long after evidence mounted of their harms, didn’t really change its stripes when it metamorphosed into an agribusiness titan with ambitions of feeding the world with its products.

The company’s PCB and Agent Orange operations have been shuttered for decades (though the human ravages they caused linger), but its agribusiness operations, including those Roundup-supplying phosphate mines in Idaho, continue as usual, meaning the firm still relies on dirty fossil resources.

And Monsanto knew that its latest troublesome herbicide, a version of dicamba specially formulated for use on its patented soybean and cotton crops, would likely drift off-target, internal documents show. (According to reporting by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Monsanto and Bayer insist that “when applied according to the label, dicamba stays on target and is an effective tool for farmers.”) Bayer continues to aggressively market the chemical, even as drift damage continues. And it is now vowing to deliver soybeans engineered to withstand no fewer than five herbicides, including both dicamba and Roundup.

Elmore’s book provides the last word we need on Monsanto’s past. But the story of its impact on U.S. farm fields, and the communities near them, is far from over.

Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Farmers, Conservationists Challenge Trump’s EPA, Monsanto Over Crop-Damaging Pesticide | Global Justice Ecology Project

Farmers, Conservationists Challenge Trump’s EPA, Monsanto Over Crop-Damaging Pesticide

Posted on February 12, 2018 by GJEP staff

EPA Unlawfully Approved Monsanto’s XtendiMax Weed-Killer, Ignoring Warnings of Rampant Drift, Destroying Crops on Millions of Acres in Devastating 2017 Farm Season With More to Come

Evidence Shows Hundreds of Endangered Species at Risk and Unprotected

WASHINGTON—On Friday, public interest organizations representing farmers and conservationists made their legal case in a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Monsanto Company, challenging EPA’s approval of Monsanto’s new “XtendiMax” pesticide. XtendiMax is Monsanto’s version of dicamba, an old and highly drift-prone weed-killer. EPA’s approval permitted XtendiMax to be sprayed for the first time on growing soybeans and cotton that Monsanto has genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to dicamba.

The 2017 crop season – the first year of XtendiMax use – was an unprecedented disaster. Just as critics warned would happen, dicamba sprayed on Monsanto’s GE soybeans and cotton formed vapor clouds that drifted to damage a host of crops and wild plants. Over three million acres of soybeans as well as scores of vegetable and fruit crops, trees and shrubs throughout the country were damaged by dicamba drift. Flowering plants near cropland also suffered, with potential harms to pollinators, as well as hundreds of endangered animal and plant species. Agronomists reported they had never seen herbicide-related drift damage on anything approaching this scale before. As the 2018 season approaches, experts predict similar widespread devastation.

“The evidence shows that, rather than protecting farmers and the public interest, government officials rushed this pesticide to market without the rigorous analysis and data the law requires,” said George Kimbrell, of the Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case. “There was good reason that decision had such devastating consequences last year: it was illegal.”

The papers filed in Court tell the story of how EPA should have known this would occur, yet instead was pressured by Monsanto into approving the pesticide without any measures to prevent vapor drift. The evidence in the case also shows that in late 2017, under pressure to take some action, EPA adopted revised instructions for use Monsanto proposed and approved – measures that agronomists believe will again be ineffective.

Denise O’Brien, Iowa farmer and Board president of Pesticide Action Network, said, “Last year, EPA ignored concerns of farmers, caving to Monsanto’s pressure and rushing dicamba-resistant seeds to market. EPA has failed utterly to protect farmers from this exploding crisis.”

Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition board president raising soy, old growth pine trees and roughly 20 different vegetables in Mississippi commented: “I’m firmly against using dicamba. Mother Nature will win this fight anyway, but dicamba is very detrimental to the environment and will cause more harm than good to farms and farmers.”

Not only did EPA fail to protect farmers, it put at risk literally hundreds of endangered species. Despite its own conclusion that the approval might harm an extraordinary number of the protected birds, mammals and insects in dozens of states, EPA refused to seek the guidance of the federal expert wildlife agencies, as the Endangered Species Act requires, and instead approved Monsanto’s pesticide without any measures to protect them, and denied there would be any risk.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said, “EPA’s disregard of both the law and the welfare of endangered whooping cranes, grey wolves, Indiana bats, and hundreds of other species at risk of extinction is unconscionable. That the EPA would indulge in this kind of recklessness and junk science to appease Monsanto is shocking.”

“The EPA’s foolish approval of dicamba left a deep scar across millions of acres of farms and forests,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ill-advised rush to approve this dangerous drift-prone pesticide reflects just how far the EPA has strayed from its duty to protect Americans and wildlife from harmful toxins.”

The plaintiff organizations bringing the lawsuit are National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and Center for Biological Diversity, represented jointly by legal counsel from Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.


Copyright © 2018 · All Rights Reserved · Global Justice Ecology Project

Stop Monsanto Soy! – Rainforest Rescue

South America’s tropical forests are being cleared to make room for soy plantations. Monocultures of Monsanto GMO soybeans are taking up even more space – and are being sprayed with highly toxic herbicides. Millions of tons of the soybeans are fed to livestock in Europe. Please the man and import ban for soybeans now.


Petition~EPA, don’t cave under Monsanto’s pressure | Pesticide Action Network


Tell the Justice Department: Block the Monsanto-Bayer merger | CREDO Action


Monsanto Weed Killer Wiping Out Valuable Crops, Agrochemical Giant Looks to be ‘Amazon of Agriculture’ | Global Justice Ecology Project

Monsanto in the news this week with a report by Mother Jones titled Monsanto Just Made a Massive Mistake. The report follows up on EPA data indicating 117 complaints “alleging misuse of pesticide products containing dicamba,” affecting more than 42,000 acres of crops, including peaches, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, rice, peas, peanuts, alfalfa, cotton, and soybeans.

From the Mother Jones piece:

The trouble appears to stem from decisions made by the Missouri-based seed and pesticide giant Monsanto. Back in April, the company bet big on dicamba, announcing a $975 million expansion of its production facility in Luling, Louisiana. The chemical is the reason the company launched its new Roundup Ready Xtend soybean and cotton seeds, genetically engineered to withstand both dicamba and Monsanto’s old flagship herbicide, glyphosate (brand name: Roundup). Within a decade, the company wrote, the new GM crops will proliferate from the US Midwest all the way to Brazil and points south, covering as much as 250 million acres of farmland (a combined land mass equal to about two and a half times the acreage of California)—and moving lots of dicamba.

Meanwhile, Forbes reports that Monsanto’s Climate Corporation “is building a network of in-field sensors to expand the scope of soil, weather and other data flowing into its digital agriculture tools that help farmers increase crop yields and reduce costs.”

“We see it as the Amazon of agriculture, where we’re bringing additional apps up onto that platform and where the best apps win,” Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said.

From the Forbes piece:

Agriculture companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on technologies that capture and analyze detailed data about plants, soil and weather to help farmers increase yields and lower costs. The companies hope to capitalize on what they believe is the biggest step forward in agriculture since biotech seeds.

But many farmers, squeezed by tightening farm profits, have not fully embraced the big data offerings.

Bayer Considering ‘Hostile Takeover’ of Monsanto | Global Justice Ecology Project


Monsanto’s new GMO soybeans are making a hot mess for farmers | Grist

Grist Logo

You can see signs of Monsanto’s latest belly flop in stricken farms: The leaves are gone from the acres of peach trees on Bill Bader’s orchard in southern Missouri, and soy fields in eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee are curling up and dying.

A lot of the blame falls on Monsanto’s new genetically engineered soybean, Xtend, which is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad roll out this year.

To explain what’s happening we have to back up. Farmers have been using crops that tolerate the herbicide glyphosate (often sold under the brand name Roundup), and for years it worked amazingly well: Farmers sprayed glyphosate and the weeds died, while the crops thrived. But then some weeds stopped dying, because nature had caught up; the weeds evolved to tolerate glyphosate.

Seed companies have now released crops that can tolerate additional weed killers, like dicamba. U.S. Monsanto’s new soybean resists both dicamba and glyphosate, which works fine for farmers with the new soybean — not so much for anyone else.

Dicamba easily turns into vapor, so it can blow onto neighbors’ crops, which is exactly what happened to Bill Bader’s peach trees.

The EPA anticipated that this would happen, so it told farmers they had to use a new mixture of dicamba on Xtend — one that wouldn’t blow on the wind. But the EPA hasn’t yet approved that safer dicamba. So when unethical farmers started seeing weeds on their Xtend fields they decided to illicitly spray the conventional dicamba and cross their fingers.

If everyone followed the rules, the new GMOs wouldn’t have caused any problems. But there have always been unethical and careless people and dicamba has been around for decades, so there is something else going on.

The new element here is Monsanto’s Xtend. If the company — or the government — had delayed the rollout until its new herbicide was ready, it would have prevented a lot of heartache.

Stop Bayer-Monsanto Merger Into Toxic Mega Corporation



A massive pharmaceutical company is trying to buy Monsanto, creating one mega corporation that will have an incredible amount of control over what the common people put into their bodies. Sign our petition to stand up against food monopolies.

Source: Stop Bayer-Monsanto Merger Into Toxic Mega Corporation

Friends of the Earth: The Biggest Jobs on Earth


Punish Monsanto for Poisoning Water and Wildlife


Punish Monsanto for Poisoning Water and Wildlife.

Stop Endorsing Monsanto in Healthy Living Magazine

Shape Magazine recently ran an advertisement by Monsanto that promotes sustainability and health. Given Monsanto’s practices and products, it is clear that this message doesn’t match their agenda. Urge Shape, a popular health and fitness magazine, to refuse to endorse Monsanto in the future.

via Stop Endorsing Monsanto in Healthy Living Magazine.

“Monsanto’s Government Ties”

The secret GMO war: double agents, betrayal, greed?

Nwo Report

We need to understand the distinction between two kinds of labeling

The secret GMO war: double agents, betrayal, greed?Source: Jon Rappoport | Infowars.com  

I’ll start at an odd place, a seemingly innocuous place. Bear with me:

We need to understand the distinction between two kinds of labeling.

Voluntary labeling=“I own this health-food store, and I’m doing my best to sell you non-GMO products. All such products will carry a seal that says ‘Non-GMO’.”

Mandatory labeling=“Vermont has decided that all food products sold in the state which contain GMOs must be labeled as such—‘this product contains GMOs’.”

Two very different types of labels. They contain different information.

Also, one type is voluntary, and the other becomes mandatory after passage of a vote, in a legislature or through a ballot measure.

So what?

Well, let me put it to you this way. What would happen to Whole Foods’ program of voluntary GMO labeling if there were mandatory labeling…

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Judicial Corruption News: MONSANTO vs Hawaii Mauis – GMO Ban Blocked By Federal Judge! – Ignoring the Voice of the People

Millennials, Monsanto wants to be your hipster friend

Millennials, Monsanto wants to be your hipster friend.

Big Victories in the Battle Against Monsanto

Random Candidate

Is Monsanto tanking?  Here’s hoping.

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Monsanto Announces Major Losses After Settling Environmental Suit – 13 October 2014

Lucas 2012 Infos

RT logoBiotech giant Monsanto announced major losses for their fourth quarter last week well below analysts’ expectations after spending millions settling an environmental suit.

The St. Louis, Missouri-headquartered company announced a loss of $156 million, or 31 cents per share, on Wednesday, 7 cents per share beyond what analysts surveyed by both Bloomberg and Zacks Investment Research had expected.

According to the Associated Press, Monsanto managed to take the biggest blow during the last quarter due to a one-time payment made to settle an environmental legal case and, had it not occurred, the company would have lost only 27 cents per share. As RT reported at the time, residents of a West Virginia town where Monsanto formerly operated a chemical plant have since July been able to receive free medical monitoring or have their property cleaned-up thanks to a settlement agreement valued at over $90 million.
Read the full story…

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Reject Monsanto’s New Pesticide-Resistant Crops – ForceChange

Reject Monsanto’s New Pesticide-Resistant Crops – ForceChange.


How the US Is Bullying El Salvador Into Using Monsanto’s GMO Seeds | Jeff Ritterman, MD


via How the US Is Bullying El Salvador Into Using Monsanto’s GMO Seeds | Jeff Ritterman, MD.

Jeff Ritterman, MD

Vice President of the Board of Directors, San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Posted: 06/21/2014

2014-06-19-P1220306.JPG President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, inaugural speech, June 1, 2014, San Salvador. Photo courtesy of Vivien Feyer

The crowd was jubilant. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa waved triumphantly to the thousands who filled the open air convention center. He walked down the red carpet just a few meters away from us to thunderous applause.

We were honored guests at the inauguration of Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Vice President Oscar Ortiz. Both the incoming President and Vice President had been Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) military commanders during the civil war. They had fought the oligarchy for power militarily for more than a decade. On March 9, they won at the…

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Monsanto Ordered to Pay $93 Million to Small Town for Poisoning Citizens

Major Study: Monsanto GMO Corn Can Cause Damage to Liver and Kidneys, and Severe Hormonal Disruption – NewsTrust.net


via Question Everything • Major Study: Monsanto GMO Corn Can Cause Damage to Liver and Kidneys, and Severe Hormonal Disruption – NewsTrust.net.

A scientific study that identified serious health impacts on rats fed on ‘Roundup ready’ GMO maize has been republished following its controversial retraction under strong commercial pressure. Now regulators must respond and review GMO and agro-chemical licenses, and licensing procedures.

A highly controversial paper by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process.

The chronic toxicity study examines the health impacts on rats of eating a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

The original study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU.


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