The Monsanto Monster
The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as "Roundup". Monsanto is also the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed; it provides the technology in 90% of the genetically engineered seeds used in the US market. It is headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri.
Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it the world's largest conventional seed company.
In January 2010, Monsanto was named company of the year by Forbes.
Spin-offs and mergersThrough 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 purchases G. D. Searle & Company. In this merger, Searle's aspartame business becomes a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company. CEO of NutraSweet, Robert B. Shapiro, goes on to become CEO of Monsanto from 1995 to 2000.
- 1996: Acquires 49.9% of Calgene, creators of the Flavr Savr tomato in April and another ~5% in November. Monsanto first entered the maize seed business when it purchased 40% of DEKALB Genetics Corporation in 1996. It purchased the remainder of the corporation in 1998.
- 1997: Monsanto spins off its industrial chemical and fiber divisions into Solutia Inc. This transfers the financial liability related to the production and contamination with PCBs at the Illinois and Alabama plants. In January, Monsanto announces the purchase of Holden's Foundations Seeds, a privately held seed business owned by the Holden family, along with its sister sales organization, Corn States Hybrid Service, of Williamsburg and Des Moines, Iowa, respectively. The combined purchase price totals $925 million. Also, in April, Monsanto purchases the remaining shares of Calgene.
- 1999: Monsanto sells off NutraSweet Co. and two other companies.
- 2000: Monsanto merges with Pharmacia and Upjohn, and ceases to exist. Later in the year, Pharmacia forms a new subsidiary, also named Monsanto, for the agricultural divisions, and retains the medical research divisions, which includes products such as Celebrex.
- 2002: Pharmacia spins off its Monsanto subsidiary into a new company, the "new Monsanto." As part of the deal, Monsanto agrees 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.
- 2005: Monsanto purchases Seminis, a leading global vegetable and fruit seed company, for $1.4 billion.
- 2007: In June, Monsanto completes its purchase of Delta and Pine Land Company, a major cotton seed breeder, for $1.5 billion. Monsanto exits 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 purchases the Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for €546 million, and sells its POSILAC bovine somatotropin brand and related business to Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly and Company in August for $300 million plus "additional contingent consideration"
Environmental and health recordAccording to an anonymous 2001 document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Monsanto has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being a "potentially responsible party" for 56 contaminated sites (Superfund sites) in the United States. 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. In 2004 The Wildlife Habitat Council and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Environmental Performance Track presented a special certificate of recognition to Monsanto Company during WHC's 16th Annual Symposium.