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Timeline Monsanto's Chemical Romance

Monsanto, whose roots began in creating toxic chemical concoctions such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and DDT, is the world leader in genetically engineered seed production.

It has benefited tremendously from biotechnology by packaging its Roundup Ready line of GE seeds with its Roundup herbicide.

But what’s good for Monsanto’s business isn’t so great for people or the environment.

The Biotech Company Has A Seedy Past:

20th Century
1901
Sweet 'N Low packet.

Monsanto is founded.

The artificial sweetener saccharin is its flagship product.

 
1929
Hazardous materials sign.

Monsanto produces polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), now-banned carcinogenic chemicals. Dioxins, a byproduct of PCB manufacturing, are dangerous environmental pollutants.

 
1940s
Styrofoam cup.

Monsanto produces polystyrene, the main component in Styrofoam, which creates large amounts of hazardous waste during manufacture.

 
1945

Monsanto begins manufacturing toxic agricultural chemicals like 2,4-D, later used in Agent Orange.

It also produces DDT.

 
1956

The U.S. Navy refuses to purchase Monsanto's hydraulic fluid after safety tests associate it with "definite liver damage."

 
1976
Chemical dispersal canister.

Monsanto introduces Roundup, a synthetic chemical herbicide whose overuse soon creates glyphosate-resistant superweeds.

 
1984

Monsanto pays millions to Vietnam War veterans suffering from exposure to Agent Orange.

 
1990s
EPA logo.

Monsanto takes 5th among U.S. corporations in the Environmental Protection Ageny's Toxic Release Inventory.

 
1994
Bovine.

Monsanto introduces recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production, despite numerous adverse health concerns.

 
1996
Soybeans.

Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready soybeans, the company's first genetically engineered, pesticide-promoting seed, and the first GE insect-resistant cotton, which produces its own insectide.

Scientists find that aspartame, an artificial sweetener developed by a Monsanto subsidiary, could pose health risks to consumers.

 
1998
Bribe.

Canadian government scientists accuse Monsanto of bribe attempts in obtaining approval of the drug hormone rBGH in Canada.

21st Century
2002
Cotton.

Monsanto is fined $1.5 million for bribing Indonesian officials to skip an environmental assessment of its GE cotton.

 
2003

Monsanto and Solutia agree to pay over $700 million to more than 20,000 Anniston, AL, residents over widespread health problems from PCB contamination.

 
2006
Bald eagle.

A judge rules that the USDA violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to conduct even minimal investigation into whether GE "pharma crops" could harm endangered species.

Photos: iStockphoto and Shutterstock
Updated: June 2011 | Source: Center for Food Safety

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Related Features

Engineering an Environmental Disaster: 2,4-D Resistant Crops

2,4-D is a component of Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant manufactured by Monsanto and Dow. USDA proposes to allow farmers to plant 2,4-D resistant corn and soy wherever they please without any government oversight, and downplays any and all impacts.

Engineering An Environmental Disaster

Our supermarkets are awash in genetically modified foods. Biotech companies have dominated dinner tables with crops modified to survive lethal doses of herbicides, resulting in increased herbicide use, a surge in herbicide-resistant weeds, and the contamination of organic and conventional crops.

"Essentially what you’re finding is that Monsanto and a few other companies are, to a very significant extent, controlling what people are eating—to a degree that I think many consumers don’t realize, because they don’t realize how much of the food they eat contains genetically engineered corn, or canola, or soy."

Paul Achitoff
Managing Attorney, Earthjustice