Monsanto; for some, the name is quite foreign and unfamiliar. For a quickly growing mass of health & environmentally conscious, the name is synonymous with government corruption & corporate greed. And for an elite chosen few, the name Monsanto triggers a Pavlovian response, lusting for paid campaigns and sketchy lobbyists. You may have seen their commercials that have been buzzing around the cable channels & internet radio or the ads in your favorite home and garden magazine. You may also remember the controversy surrounding the company in the 60’s and 70’s, amidst a radical period of war, peace and a psychedelic-fueled fight for human rights.
The behemoth Monsanto, based out of St. Louis, Mo – is an herbicide, pesticide and seed company worth $14.861 billion dollars (2013). Monsanto has been recently making headlines regarding their genetically modified seeds and toxic herbicides & pesticides. Genetic modification is the process of manipulating genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. Unlike cross breeding or hybridization—both of which involve two related species and have been done without ill effects for centuries—genetic engineering forcefully ruptures the naturally-occurring barriers between species. Because the injected genes can come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans, GMOs are also known as “transgenic” organisms. Because genes operate in a complex network in ways that are still not fully understood, genetic engineering can result in both known and unknown or inadvertent consequences. Monsanto also produces Bt Corn, which tolerates the use of toxic herbicides including Roundup Ready, who’s key ingredient Glyphosate has been deemed a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) just a few months ago. The corn has been genetically altered to express one or more proteins from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. The protein is poisonous to the European corn borer, which causes about a billion dollars in damage to corn crops each year. Although the FDA and Monsanto claim GMOs to be perfectly safe, studies and numerous testimonials have linked the consumption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to a multitude of serious health issues including obesity, damage to immunity and gut flora, Autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, degenerative diseases, birth defects and shorter life spans. Although the list is ever changing, more than 60 countries around the world have significant restrictions or outright bans against the production and sale of GMOs. For those unfamiliar with Monsanto and their notorious reputation, let’s take a stroll down memory lane so you can familiarize yourself with Monsanto’s contribution to humanity.
1920’s: Monsanto introduces industrial chemicals (sulfuric acid) and drugs. During this time, Monsanto introduces a product deemed the “gravest chemical known to man” – Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Dubbed the “oil that wouldn’t burn,” PCBs were found in lubricants, hydraulic fluids, cutting oils and liquid sealants. It was found through internal memos, Monsanto full well knew of the reproductive and immune system disorders associated with exposure to PCB’s and continued to manufacture and sell the chemical. Although PCBs were eventually banned in 1979, the deadly chemical can still be found in almost all blood & tissue cells of every human and animal on earth.
1930’s: The first hybrid corn seed was developed and Monsanto expands into detergents, soaps industrialized cleaning products, synthetic rubbers and plastics after DuPont helped ban hemp as it was deemed superior to their nylon product made from Rockefeller Oil.
1940’s: Monsanto begins research on Uranium to be used in the Manhattan Project – the world’s first atomic bomb that would be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese, Korean & U.S. Military personnel, poisoning millions more. During this time, Monsanto also begins to produce herbicides (2, 4, 5-T) DDT & Agent Orange. DDT, banned by the U.S. Government in 1972, was held responsible for detrimental effects on the environment as well as the human body including cancer, infertility, nervous system & liver damage, miscarriages and developmental delay. Monsanto also begins focusing on plastics and synthetic fabrics like polystyrene, still widely used in food packaging today. Polystyrene is ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980’s list of chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.
1950’s: Monsanto partners with German chemical giant Bayer to form Mobay and begins marketing polyurethane. During this time, Monsanto is aware of the lethal effects of Dioxin, a group of chemically-related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants. Dioxins are unwanted by products of a wide range of manufacturing processes including smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides Dioxins are highly toxic and can lead to reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Monsanto acquires Lion Oil refinery, increasing assets by more than 50%. Monsanto starts producing petroleum-based fertilizer. Monsanto moves their headquarters to St. Louis, Missouri.
1960’s: Monsanto sets up Monsanto Electronics Co, and begins producing ultra-pure silicon for the high-tech industry. During this time, Monsanto receives much backlash as the world becomes aware of the horrors of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that contains TCDD, a form of dioxin. In the American effort to fight an invisible enemy who hid in the jungles while living of the land, some 5 million acres (7,813 square miles) of mangrove and upland forest were defoliated, while 500,000 acres (781 square miles) of crops were destroyed. Cambodia and Laos were sprayed and affected to a lesser extent. Over ½ million Vietnamese died, 3 million were contaminated by the toxic chemical, ½ million Vietnamese babies were born with birth defects continuing today and thousands of U.S. Military Veterans are suffering from Agent Orange exposure to this day. Monsanto is brought to court and is allowed to present their own evidence that concluded Dioxin is safe. The case would eventually be thrown out of court. Once the controversy dies down, Monsanto releases Aspartame (known currently as Sucralose). James Schlatter, a chemist of G.D. Searle Company, was testing an anti-ulcer drug and discovers Aspartame by accident. Aspartame, a toxic sweetener, is composed of two strains of bacteria – traditionally modified bacteria and genetically modified bacteria –and has a modified enzyme with one amino acid different. In 1967, Monsanto teams with IG Farben, a German chemical firm that was the financial core of the Hitler Nazi Regime, and was the main supplier of Zyklon-B gas to the German government for use in the extermination phase of the Holocaust.
1970’s: Monsanto pairs with G.D. Searle and begins producing studies to the FDA showing Aspartame is safe. It was originally approved for dry goods on July 26, 1974, but objections filed by neuroscience researcher Dr. John W. Olney and consumer attorney James Turner in August 1974, as well as investigations of G.D. Searle’s research practices caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put approval of aspartame on hold until December 5, 1974. During this same time period, G.D. Searle becomes involved with U.S. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. There are over 92 different health side effects associated with aspartame consumption including blindness in one or both eyes, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sound), epileptic seizures, headaches, migraines, severe depression, insomnia, personality changes, palpitations, tachycardia, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, marked thinning or loss of hair, cancer, infertility and birth defects including mental retardation, just to name a few. In addition, Aspartame may trigger, mimic, or cause the following illnesses: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Epstein-Barr, Post-Polio Syndrome, Lyme disease, Grave’s Disease, Meniere’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), EMS, Hypothyroidism, Mercury sensitivity from Amalgam fillings, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). In 1973, Monsanto developed and patented the glyphosate molecule and began manufacturing the herbicide Roundup, which has been marketed as “safe”, general-purpose herbicide for widespread commercial and consumer use.
1980’s: During the 80’s, FDA commissioner Dr. Jere Goyan was to sign a petition into law against Aspartame. The day before the signing, Rumsfeld makes an important call to U.S. President Ronald Raegan (the day after he takes office) and Goyan is immediately fired from his post. Raegan than elects Dr. Arthur Hayes Hull to head the FDA. The FDA then approves NutraSweet (Aspartame’s new name) and confirms it is safe for human consumption. The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) is first horrified by the effects of Aspartame but after it is compared to liquid crack-cocaine, the NSDA is convinced of sky-rocketing sales. In 1983, Aspartame is introduced to the public by way of Diet-Coke. In 1985, Monsanto purchased NutraSweet and bribes the National Cancer Institute by providing their own fraudulent papers to get the NCI to claim formaldehyde does not cause cancer. During time of much controversy and under a cloud of corruption, Dr. Arthur Hayes Hull, FDA head, resigns and is promptly hired by Searle’s public relations firm as the Senior Scientific Consultant.
1990’s: Monsanto continues to lobby against the state and federal legislation that allows corporations from dumping dioxins, pesticides and cancer-causing agents into drinking water. They dump more than $405,000 to defeat California’s pesticide regulation Proposition 128, known as the “Big Green” initiative. Monsanto and the FDA approve the use of a synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) despite warnings. Companies and farmers refusing to use rBGH are then sued by Monsanto, claiming labels give an unfair advantage over companies using rGBH. In 1991, Monsanto is fine $1.2 million dollars for concealing discharge of contaminated waste water into the Mystic River in Connecticut. By April of 1993, the Department of Veteran Affairs had only compensated 486 victims, although receiving disability claims of 39,419 Veteran soldiers who had been exposed to Monsanto’s Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. No compensation has been paid to Vietnamese civilians and though thousands of Veterans were denied benefits because according to the EPA, “Monsanto studies showed that dioxin (found in Agent Orange) was not a human carcinogen.” In 1995, Monsanto begins to produce GMO crops that are tolerant to their toxic herbicide, Roundup. During this time, Roundup Ready canola oil (rapeseed), soybeans, corn and BT cotton make their way onto the market. As we have previously been shown, Monsanto is already aware of the horrific effect on honey bee, birds & butterflies and continues to produce GM crops. Monsanto then purchases Beelogics, the largest bee research firm, dedicated to studying the colony collapse phenomenon Monsanto is in part responsible for. Monsanto begins promoting use of their ‘terminator’ seed worldwide, which forces farmer’s to purchase and only use their toxic seeds.
2000’s: Monsanto merges with Pharmica & Upjohn and rebrands itself an “Agricultural Company.” During this time, Monsanto brings any farmer to court that has had their crops cross-contaminated by wind-blown seeds as Monsanto claims patent infringement. Monsanto continues to spread worldwide bioterrorism as they contribute to over 200,000 suicide by Roundup of Indian farmers (20 year span) due to bankruptcy by a failing seed. Monsanto responds by donating the supplies of the same seeds responsible for widespread bankruptcy and suicide. They are later named “Company of the Year” by Forbes. In 2009, Monsanto teams up with Sodexo, Archer Daniels, Midland and Tyson to write “The Food Safety Modernization Act” (HR875). The act allowed the corporate factory farmers a monopoly to police and control all foods grown, that may impose harsh penalties for not using chemicals during production. President Barack Obama approves the act and claims only genetically modified foods are safe as homegrown foods can “potentially spread disease.” Obama signs the Monsanto Protection Act (HR933) into effect which states no matter how harmful or how much damage GM crops cause, Monsanto will never be held liable. In 2015, the EPA would confirm Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup “probably causes cancer.” Monsanto denies all claims and former Greenpeace member, Patrick Moore and suspected Monsanto lobbyist reacts by proclaiming it is safe to consume, dismissing thousands of deaths of Indian farmers, and promptly storms out of an interview when asked to do just that. Currently, Monsanto is being sued by a class action lawsuit out of California for labeling their products “Glyphosate targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets” when in actuality, Glyphosate is responsible for killing critically important gut bacteria. Monsanto is also suing the State of Vermont for mandating all foods to be labeled if that are made with genetically modified crops that is set in place for July 2016.