How Monsanto Took Control of Our Food


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How Monsanto Took Control of Our Food

From its early 20th century origins selling a suspect sweetener, Monsanto has long had its hand in our food supply. And that isn't necessarily a good thing. Let's take a look at the company's history and its current practices.

Monsanto and GMOs

Monsanto is a self-proclaimed leader in genetic engineering of food crops. That's not something to be proud of.

GMOs have been linked preliminarily to:

Food allergies

Increased toxicity

Decreased nutritional value

Antibiotic resistance

A History Lesson


John Francis Queeny founds Monsanto, giving the company his wife's maiden name. Queeny, a purchaser for a wholesale drug house, forms his St. Louis-based company in order to begin production of saccharin, an artificial sweetener developed in the latter part of the 19th century.


The company begins producing caffeine and vanilla.


Monsanto's sales surpass $1 million for the first time.


The company expands to industrial chemicals and drugs and introduces now-banned polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).


Monsanto creates its first hybrid seed corn and expands production of cleaners and synthetic rubbers and plastics.


Monsanto acquires Ohio-based Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories, a connection that later helps the U.S. develop the atomic bomb.


The company begins producing polysterene, the main component in Styrofoam.


Monsanto begins production of agricultural chemicals, such as 2,4-D , later used to make Agent Orange, and DDT.


Navy tests determine that the hydraulic fluid the company is trying to sell to the military is associated with liver damage in humans.


Monsanto halts production of saccharin.


The company introduces synthetic chemical herbicide Roundup.

Congress bans production of PCBs after they were found to cause cancer, including damage to the liver, immune system, reproductive system, skin, eyes and brain. Before the ban, 99% of PCBs used in the U.S. were produced by Monsanto.


Monsanto pays out millions of dollars to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.


The company purchases chemical manufacturer G.D. Searle, despite a previous FDA inquiry into Searle's chief product, aspartame, a controversial sweetener, which Donald Rumsfeld had pushed to get approved.


The company introduces its first genetically modified product, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in efforts to increase milk production.


Monsanto introduces its first two genetically engineered seeds, Roundup Ready soybeans and insect-resistant cotton.

Researchers reveal aspartame could pose health risks to consumers.


Scientists document the first Roundup-resistant weed, with another to be discovered in 2000 and three more in 2004. To date, 24 weeds have developed resistance to Roundup worldwide thanks to overuse of the chemical.


Monsanto splits its medical and agricultural operations into separate companies, the agricultural company keeping the Monsanto name.


Monsanto and subsidiary Solutia agree to pay more than $700 million to Alabama residents over widespread health problems connected to PCB contamination.


More Roundup Ready crops, including alfalfa, sugar beets and corn are approved.

Speculation grows that overuse of products like Roundup is to blame for colony collapse disorder affecting honey bees.


The company makes strong opposition to California's Proposition 37 that would have required labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients. Thanks in part to Monsanto's $8.1 million in donations to the campaign, the initiative fails at the ballot box.


Monsanto reports revenue of nearly $16 billion.

Monsanto Today

While it got its start making food additives, the company's chief products today are agricultural, from seeds to herbicides. And Monsanto's impact on modern farming in the U.S. and around the world is undeniable.


Monsanto-patented seeds are used to grow …

… 93% of U.S. soybeans

… 80% of U.S. corn

282 million

Acres worldwide using Monsanto products


Total U.S. crop acreage using Monsanto products


Total facilities worldwide, in 66 countries

Top products

Roundup and Harness herbicides

Asgrow soybean seeds

Deltapine cotton seeds

Seminis vegetable seeds

De Ruiter vegetable seeds

Smartstax insect-repellant corn

Bollgard insect-repellant cotton


Monsanto lobbying spending by year

2008: $8,831,120

2009: $8,694,000

2010: $8,030,000

2011: $6,370,000

2012: $5,970,000

2013: $6,940,000

2014: $4,120,000

Monsanto board members have worked or advised for …

… the EPA

… U.S. Department of Agriculture

… presidential advisory committees

… universities

… international trade councils and science academies

Control of farmers

The licensing agreement on every bag of Monsanto seed ensures the company can sue farmers for not following Monsanto procedures and allows the company to investigate fields and records of farmers anytime it chooses. The company also has a toll-free hotline where neighbors and community members can report on farmers who may be using Monsanto seeds without a license.

We've only scratched the surface of how Monsanto controls our food supply with genetically engineered products. With its hands in so much of the food we eat and politicians in its back pocket, there's no doubt Monsanto will continue to exert control and influence over agriculture and human health.



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