Over its 108-year history, Monsanto Co (MON.N), the world's largest seed company, has evolved from primarily an industrial chemical concern into a pure agricultural products company. Below is a timeline of Monsanto's dark history.
Monsanto, best know today for its agricultural biotechnology GMO products, has a long and dirty history of polluting this country and others with some of the most toxic compounds known to humankind. From PCBs to Agent Orange to Roundup, we have many reasons to question the motives of this evil corporation that claims to be working to reduce environmental destruction and feed the world with its genetically engineered GMO food crops. Monsanto has been repeatedly fined and ruled against for, among many things: mislabeling containers of Roundup, failing to report health data to EPA, plus chemical spills and improper chemical deposition.
The name Monsanto has since, for many around the world, come to symbolize the greed, arrogance, scandal and hardball business practices of many multinational corporations. A couple of historical factoids not generally known: Monsanto was heavily involved during WWII in the creation of the first nuclear bomb for the Manhattan Project via its facilities in Dayton Ohio and called the Dayton Project headed by Charlie Thomas, Director of Monsanto's Central Research Department (and later Monsanto President) and it operated a nuclear facility for the federal government in Miamisburg, also in Ohio, called the Mound Project until the 80s.
1901: Monsanto was founded in St. Louis, Missouri by John Francis Queeny, a 30-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry. Queeny funded the start-up with capital from Coca-Cola (saccharin). Founder John Francis Queeny named Monsanto Chemical Works after his wife, Olga Mendez Monsanto. Queeny's father in law was Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto, wealthy financier of a sugar company active in Vieques, Puerto Rico and based in St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies.
1902: The company manufactures its first product, the artificial sweetener Saccharin, which Monsanto sold to the Coca-Cola Company. The U.S. government later files suit over the safety of Saccharin - but loses.
1905: John Queeny's company was also producing caffeine and vanillin and was beginning to turn a profit.
1908: John Francis Queeny leaves his part-time job with another drug house to work full time as Monsanto's president.
1915: Monsanto sales surpass the $1,000,000 mark for the first time.
1917: Monsanto starts producing aspirin.
1918: With the purchase of an Illinois acid company, Monsanto began to widen the scope of its factory operations.
1919: Monsanto established its presence in Europe by entering into a partnership with Graesser's Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr near Ruabon, Wales to produce vanillin, salicylic acid, aspirin and later rubber.
1920s: In its third decade, Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals like sulfuric acid and other chemicals.
1920-1921: A postwar depression during the early 1920s affected profits, but by the time John Queeny turned over the company to Edgar in 1928 the financial situation was much brighter.
1928: John Queeny's son Edgar Monsanto Queeny takes over the Monsanto company. Monsanto had gone public, a move that paved the way for future expansion. At this time, the company had 55 shareholders, 1,000 employees, and owned a small company in Britain.
1929: Charlie Sommer joined the company in 1929, and later became president of Monsanto in 1960.
1929: Monsanto acquires Rubber Services Laboratories
1929: Monsanto began production of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the United States. PCBs were considered an industrial wonder chemical - an oil that would not burn, was impervious to degradation and had almost limitless applications. Today PCBs are considered one of the gravest chemical threats on the planet. PCBs, widely used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, cutting oils, waterproof coatings and liquid sealants, are potent carcinogens and have been implicated in reproductive, developmental and immune system disorders. The world's center of PCB manufacturing was Monsanto's plant on the outskirts of East St. Louis, Illinois, which has the highest rate of fetal death and immature births in the state.
Monsanto produced PCBs for over 50 years and they are now virtually omnipresent in the blood and tissues of humans and wildlife around the globe - from the polar bears at the north pole to the penguins in Antarctica. These days PCBs are banned from production and some experts say there should be no acceptable level of PCBs allowed in the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, "PCB has been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system." But the evidence of widespread contamination from PCBs and related chemicals has been accumulating from 1965 onwards and internal company papers show that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers from early on.
The PCB problem was particularly severe in the town of Anniston in Alabama where discharges from the local Monsanto plant meant residents developed PCB levels hundreds or thousands of times the average. As The Washington Post reported, "for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents : many emblazoned with warnings such as 'CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy' : show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew."
Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says that based on the Monsanto documents made public, the company "knew the truth from the very beginning. They lied about it. They hid the truth from their neighbors." One Monsanto memo explains their justification: "We can't afford to lose one dollar of business." Eventually the company was found guilty of conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society".
1933: Incorporated as Monsanto Chemical Company
1934: "I recognized my two selves: a crusading idealist and a cold, granitic believer in the law of the jungle" - Edgar Monsanto Queeny, Monsanto chairman, 1943-63, "The Spirit of Enterprise"
1935: Edward O'Neal (who became chairperson in 1964) came to Monsanto with the acquisition of the Swann Corporation. Monsanto goes into the soap and detergents industry, starts producing phosphorus.
1938: The company goes into the plastic business (the year after DuPont helped ban hemp because it was superior to their new NYLON product made from Rockefeller OIL).
1939-1945: Monsanto conducts research on uranium for the Manhattan Project in Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Charles Thomas, who later served as the company's chairman of the board, was present at the first test explosion of the atomic bomb. During World War II, Monsanto played a significant role in the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb. Monsanto operated the Dayton Project, and later Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio, for the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear weapons and, after 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission.
1940s: Monsanto had begun focusing on plastics and synthetic fabrics like polystyrene (still widely used in food packaging and other consumer products), which is ranked 5th in the EPA's 1980s listing of chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste. From the 1940s onwards Monsanto was one of the top 10 US chemical companies.
1941: By the time the United States entered World War II, the domestic chemical industry had attained far greater independence from Europe. Monsanto, strengthened by its several acquisitions, was also prepared to produce such strategic materials as phosphates and inorganic chemicals. Most important was the company's acquisition of a research and development laboratory called Thomas and Hochwalt. The well-known Dayton, Ohio, firm strengthened Monsanto at the time and provided the basis for some of its future achievements in chemical technology. One of its most important discoveries was styrene monomer, a key ingredient in synthetic rubber and a crucial product for the armed forces during the war. Edward J. Bock joined Monsanto in 1941 as an engineer - he rose through the ranks to become a member of the board of directors in 1965 and president in 1968.
1943: Massive Texas City plant starts producing synthetic rubber for the Allies in World War II.
1944: Monsanto began manufacturing DDT, along with some 15 other companies. The use of DDT in the U.S. was banned by Congress in 1972.
1945: Following WW2, Monsanto championed the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture, and began manufacturing the herbicide 2,4,5-T, which contains dioxin. Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.
1949: Monsanto acquired American Viscose from England's Courtauld family.
1950: Monsanto began to produce urethane foam - which was flexible, easy to use, and later became crucial in making automobile interiors.
1953: Toxicity tests on the effects of 2 PCBs showed that more than 50% of the rats subjected to them DIED, and ALL of them showed damage.
1954: Monsanto partnered with German chemical giant Bayer to form Mobay and market polyurethanes in the USA.
1955: Monsanto acquired Lion Oil refinery, increasing its assets by more than 50%. Stockholders during this time numbered 43,000. Monsanto starts producing petroleum-based fertilizer.
1957: Monsanto moved to the suburban community of Creve Coeur, having finally outgrown its headquarters in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.
1957-1967: Monsanto was the creator of several attractions in Disney's Tommorrowland. Often they revolved around the the virtues of chemicals and plastics. Their "House of the Future" was constructed entirely of plastic, but it was NOT biodegradable. "After attracting a total of 20 million visitors from 1957 to 1967, Disney finally tore the house down, but discovered it would not go down without a fight. According to Monsanto Magazine, wrecking balls literally bounced off the glass-fiber, reinforced polyester material. Torches, jackhammers, chain saws and shovels did not work. Finally, choker cables were used to squeeze off parts of the house bit by bit to be trucked away."
1959: Monsanto sets up Monsanto Electronics Co. in Palo Alto, begins producing ultra-pure silicon for the high-tech industry, in an area which would later become a Superfund site.
1960: Edgar Queeny turned over the chair of Monsanto to Charles Thomas, one of the founders of the research and development laboratory so important to Monsanto. Charlie Sommer, who had joined the company in 1929, became president. According to Monsanto historian Dan Forrestal, "Leadership during the 1960s and early 1970s came principally from ... executives whose Monsanto roots ran deep." Under their combined leadership Monsanto saw several important developments, including the establishment of the Agricultural Chemicals division with focus on herbicides, created to consolidate Monsanto's diverse agrichemical product lines.
1961-1971: Agent Orange was a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D and had very high concentrations of dioxin. Agent Orange was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides" employed in the Herbicidal Warfare program as a defoliant during the Vietnam War. Monsanto became one of 10-36 producers of Agent Orange for US Military operations in Vietnam. Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military. The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam. This made Monsanto the key defendant in the lawsuit brought by Vietnam War veterans in the United States, who faced an array of debilitating symptoms attributable to Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange is later linked to various health problems, including cancer. U.S. Vietnam War veterans have suffered from a host of debilitating symptoms attributable to Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange contaminated more than 3,000,000 civilians and servicemen. According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, plus 500,000 children born with birth defects, leading to calls for Monsanto to be prosecuted for war crimes. Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam. Look at what the "EFFECTS" of agent orange look like... keep in mind it was used to remove leaves from the trees where AMERICAN SOLDIERS were breathing, eating, sleeping.
1962: Public concern over the environment began to escalate. Ralph Nader's activities and Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring had been influential in increasing the U.S. public's awareness of activities within the chemical industry in the 1960s, and Monsanto responded in several ways to the pressure.
1962: Monsanto's European expansion continued, with Brussels becoming the permanent overseas headquarters.
1964: Monsanto changed its name to Monsanto Company in acknowledgment of its diverse product line. The company consisted of 8 divisions, including petroleum, fibers, building materials, and packaging. Edward O'Neal became chairperson (came to Monsanto in 1935 with the acquisition of the Swann Corporation) was the first chair in company history who had not first held the post of president.
1964: Monsanto introduced "biodegradable" detergents.
1965: While working on an ulcer drug in December, James M. Schlatter, a chemist at G.D. Searle & Company, accidentally discovers aspartame, a substance that is 180x sweeter than sugar yet has no calories.
1965: AstroTurf (fake grass) was co-invented by Donald L. Elbert, James M. Faria, and Robert T. Wright, employees of Monsanto Company. It was patented in 1967 and originally sold under the name "Chemgrass". It was renamed AstroTurf by Company employee John A. Wortmann after its first well-publicized use at the Houston Astrodome stadium in 1966.
1965: The evidence of widespread contamination from PCBs and related chemicals has been accumulating and internal company papers show that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers from early on.
1967: Monsanto entered into a joint venture with IG Farben = the German chemical firm that was the financial core of the Hitler regime, and was the main supplier of Zyklon-B gas to the German government during the extermination phase of the Holocaust; IG Farben was not dissolved until 2003.
1967: Searle began the safety tests on aspartame that were necessary for applying for FDA approval of food additives. Dr. Harold Waisman, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin, conducts aspartame safety tests on infant monkeys on behalf of the Searle Company. Of the 7 monkeys that were being fed aspartame mixed with milk, 1 monkey DIED and 5 other monkeys had grand mal seizures.
1968: Edgar Queeny dies, leaving no heirs. Edward J. Bock (who had joined Monsanto in 1941 as an engineer) become a member of the board of directors in 1965, and became president of Monsanto in 1968.
1968: With experts at the company in no doubt that Monsanto's PCBs were responsible for contamination, the company set up a committee to assess its options. In a paper distributed to only 12 people but which surfaced at the trial in 2002, Monsanto admitted "that the evidence proving the persistence of these compounds and their universal presence as residues in the environment is beyond question ... the public and legal pressures to eliminate them to prevent global contamination are inevitable". Monsanto papers seen by The Guardian newspaper reveal near panic. "The subject is snowballing. Where do we go from here? The alternatives: go out of business; sell the hell out of them as long as we can and do nothing else; try to stay in business; have alternative products", wrote the recipient of one paper.
1968: Monsanto became the first organization to mass-produce visible LEDs, using gallium arsenide phosphide to produce red LEDs suitable for indicators. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) ushered in the era of solid-state lights. From 1968 to 1970, sales doubled every few months. Their products (discrete LEDs and seven-segment numeric displays) became the standards of industry. The primary markets then were electronic calculators, digital watches, and digital clocks.
1969: High overhead costs and a sluggish national economy led to a dramatic 29% decrease in earnings.
1969: Monsanto wrote a confidential Pollution Abatement Plan which admitted that "the problem involves the entire United States, Canada and sections of Europe, especially the UK and Sweden".
1969: Monsanto produces Lasso herbicide, better known as Agent Orange, which was used as defoliant by the U.S. Government during the Vietnam War. "[Lasso's] success turns around the struggling Agriculture Division," Monsanto's web page reads.
1970s: Monsanto was a pioneer of optoelectronics in the 1970s. Although Bock had a reputation for being a committed company executive, several factors contributed to his volatile term as president. Sales were up in 1970, but Bock's implementation of the 1971 reorganization caused a significant amount of friction among members of the board and senior management. In spite of the fact that this move, in which Monsanto separated the management of raw materials from the company's subsidiaries, was widely praised by security analysts, Bock resigned from the presidency in February 1972.
1970: Cyclamate (the reigning low-calorie artificial sweetener) is pulled off the market in November after some scientists associate it with cancer. Questions are also raised about safety of saccharin, the only other artificial sweetener on the market, leaving the field wide open for aspartame.
December 18, 1970: Searle Company executives lay out a "Food and Drug Sweetener Strategy" that they feel will put the FDA into a positive frame of mind about aspartame. An internal policy memo describes psychological tactics the company should use to bring the FDA into a subconscious spirit of participation" with them on aspartame and get FDA regulators into the "habit of saying Yes."
1971: Neuroscientist Dr. John Olney (whose pioneering work with monosodium glutamate MSG was responsible for having it removed from baby foods) informs Searle that his studies show that aspartic acid (one of the ingredients of aspartame) caused holes in the brains of infant mice. One of Searle's own researchers confirmed Dr. Olney's findings in a similar study.
1972: The use of DDT was banned by U.S. Congress, due in large part to efforts by environmentalists, who persisted in the challenge put forth by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in 1962, which sought to inform the public of the side effects associated with the insecticide, which had been much-welcomed in the fight against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.
1973: Monsanto developed and patented the glyphosate molecule in the 1970s. Monsanto began manufacturing the herbicide Roundup, which has been marketed as a "safe", general-purpose herbicide for widespread commercial and consumer use, even though its key ingredient, glyphosate, is a highly toxic poison for animals and humans.
1973: After spending tens of millions of dollars conducting safety tests, the G.D. Searle Company applies for FDA approval and submits over 100 studies they claim support aspartame's safety. One of the first FDA scientists to review the aspartame safety data states that "the information provided (by Searle) is inadequate to permit an evaluation of the potential toxicity of aspartame". She says in her report that in order to be certain that aspartame is safe, further clinical tests are needed.
1974: Attorney Jim Turner (consumer advocate who was instrumental in getting cyclamate taken off the market) meets with Searle representatives in May to discuss Dr. Olney's 1971 study which showed that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of infant mice.
1974: The FDA grants aspartame its first approval for restricted use in dry foods on July 26.
1974: Jim Turner and Dr. John Olney file the first objections against aspartame's approval in August.
1975: After a 9-month search, John W. Hanley, a former executive with Procter & Gamble, was chosen as president. Hanley also took over as chairperson.
1976: The success of the herbicide Lasso had turned around Monsanto's struggling Agriculture Division, and by the time Agent Orange was banned in the U.S. and Lasso was facing increasing criticism, Monsanto had developed the weedkiller "Roundup" (active ingredient: glyphosate) as a replacement. Launched in 1976, Roundup helped make Monsanto the world's largest producer of herbicides. RoundUp was commercialized, and became the world's top-selling herbicide. Within a few years of its 1976 launch, Roundup was being marketed in 115 countries.
The success of Roundup coincided with the recognition by Monsanto executives that they needed to radically transform a company increasingly under threat. According to a recent paper by Dominic Glover, "Monsanto had acquired a particularly unenviable reputation in this regard, as a major producer of both dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - both persistent environmental pollutants posing serious risks to the environment and human health. Law suits and environmental clean-up costs began to cut into Monsanto's bottom line, but more seriously there was a real fear that a serious lapse could potentially bankrupt the company." According to Glover, Roundup "Sales grew by 20% in 1981 and as the company increased production it was soon Monsanto's most profitable product (Monsanto 1981, 1983)... It soon became the single most important product of Monsanto's agriculture division, which contributed about 20% of sales and around 45% of operating income to the company's balance sheet each year during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, glyphosate remains the world's biggest herbicide by volume of sales."
1976: Monsanto produces Cycle-Safe, the world's first plastic soft-drink bottle. The bottle, suspected of posing a cancer risk, is banned the following year by the Food and Drug Administration.
1976: Turner & Olney's petition on March 24 triggers an FDA investigation of the laboratory practices of aspartame's manufacturer, G.D. Searle. The investigation finds Searle's testing procedures shoddy, full of inaccuracies and "manipulated" test data. The investigators report they "had never seen anything as bad as Searle's testing."
January 10, 1977: The FDA formally requests the U.S. Attorney's office to begin grand jury proceedings to investigate whether indictments should be filed against Searle for knowingly misrepresenting findings and "concealing material facts and making false statements" in aspartame safety tests. This is the first time in the FDA's history that they request a criminal investigation of a manufacturer.
January 26, 1977: While the grand jury probe is underway, Sidley & Austin, the law firm representing Searle, begins job negotiations with the U.S. Attorney in charge of the investigation, Samuel Skinner.
March 8, 1977: G. D. Searle hires prominent Washington insider Donald Rumsfeld as the new CEO to try to turn the beleaguered company around. A former Member of Congress and Secretary of Defense in the Ford Administration, Rumsfeld brings in several of his Washington cronies as top management. Donald Rumsfeld followed Searle as CEO, and then as President of Searle from 1977-1985.
July 1, 1977: Samuel Skinner leaves the U.S. Attorney's office on July 1st and takes a job with Searle's law firm. (see Jan. 26th)
August 1, 1977: The Bressler Report, compiled by FDA investigators and headed by Jerome Bressler, is released. The report finds that 98 of the 196 animals died during one of Searle's studies and weren't autopsied until later dates, in some cases over one year after death. Many other errors and inconsistencies are noted. For example, a rat was reported alive, then dead, then alive, then dead again; a mass, a uterine polyp, and ovarian neoplasms were found in animals but not reported or diagnosed in Searle's reports.
December 8, 1977: U.S. Attorney Skinner's withdrawal and resignation stalls the Searle grand jury investigation for so long that the statue of limitations on the aspartame charges runs out. The grand jury investigation is dropped. (borderline treason)
1979: The FDA established a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) in June to rule on safety issues surrounding NutraSweet.
1980: September 30, FDA Board of Inquiry comprised of 3 independent scientists, confirmed that aspartame "might induce brain tumors". The Public Board of Inquiry concludes NutraSweet should not be approved pending further investigations of brain tumors in animals. The board states it "has NOT been presented with proof of reasonable certainty that aspartame is safe for use as a food additive." The FDA had actually banned aspartame based on this finding, only to have Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld (Ford's Secretary of Defense 1975-1977, Bush's Secretary of Defense 2001-2006) vow to "call in his markers," to get it approved in 1981.
1980: Monsanto established the Edgar Monsanto Queeny safety award in honor of its former CEO (1928–1960), to encourage accident prevention.
January 1981: Donald Rumsfeld, CEO of Searle, states in a sales meeting that he is going to make a big push to get aspartame approved within the year. Rumsfeld says he will use his political pull in Washington, rather than scientific means, to make sure it gets approved.
May 19, 1981: 3 of 6 in-house FDA scientists who were responsible for reviewing the brain tumor issues, Dr. Robert Condon, Dr. Satya Dubey, and Dr. Douglas Park, advise against approval of NutraSweet, stating on the record that the Searle tests are unreliable and not adequate to determine the safety of aspartame.
1981: Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President of the United States. Reagan's transition team, which includes Donald Rumsfeld, CEO of G. D. Searle, hand picks Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes Jr. to be the new FDA Commissioner. On January 21, the day after Ronald Reagan's inauguration, GD Searle re-applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame in food sweetener, and Reagan's new FDA commissioner, Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the board of inquiry's decision. It soon became clear that the panel would uphold the ban by a 3-2 decision, but Hull then installed a 6th member on the commission, and the vote became deadlocked. He then personally broke the tie in aspartame's favor. Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, served briefly as Provost at New York Medical College, and then took a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and GD Searle. Since that time Hull has never spoken publicly about aspartame.
July 15, 1981: In one of his first official acts, Dr. Arthur Hayes Jr., the new FDA commissioner, overrules the Public Board of Inquiry, ignores the recommendations of his own internal FDA team and approves NutraSweet for dry products. Hayes says that aspartame has been shown to be safe for its' proposed uses and says few compounds have withstood such detailed testing and repeated close scrutiny. G.D. Searle gets FDA approval for aspartame (NutraSweet). Monsanto completes its acquisition of Searle in 1985.
1982: Monsanto GMO scientists genetically modify a plant cell for the first time!
1982: Some 2,000 people are relocated from Times Beach, Missouri, which was found to be so thoroughly contaminated with dioxin, a by-product of PCB manufacturing, that the government ordered it evacuated. Dioxins are endocrine and immune system disruptors, cause congenital birth defects, reproductive and developmental problems, and increase the incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in laboratory animals. Critics say a St. Louis-area Monsanto chemical plant was a source but company denies any connection.
October 15, 1982: The FDA announces that GD Searle has filed a petition that aspartame be approved as a sweetener in carbonated beverages and other liquids.
July 1, 1983: The National Soft Drink Association (NSDA) urges the FDA to delay approval of aspartame for carbonated beverages pending further testing because aspartame is very unstable in liquid form. When liquid aspartame is stored in temperatures above 85°F degrees Fahrenheit, aspartame breaks down into known toxins Diketopiperazines (DKP), methyl (wood) alcohol, and formaldehyde.
July 8, 1983: The National Soft Drink Association drafts an objection to the final ruling which permits the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages and syrup bases and requests a hearing on the objections. The association says that Searle has not provided responsible certainty that aspartame and its' degradation products are safe for use in soft drinks.
August 8, 1983: Consumer Attorney, Jim Turner of the Community Nutrition Institute and Dr. Woodrow Monte, Arizona State University's Director of Food Science and Nutritional Laboratories, file suit with the FDA objecting to aspartame approval based on unresolved safety issues.
September, 1983: FDA Commissioner Hayes resigns under a cloud of controversy about his taking unauthorized rides aboard a General Foods jet. (General foods is a major customer of NutraSweet) Burson-Marsteller, Searle's public relation firm (which also represented several of NutraSweet's major users), immediately hires Hayes as senior scientific consultant.
Fall 1983: The first carbonated beverages containing aspartame are sold for public consumption.
1983: Diet Coke was sweetened with aspartame after the sweetener became available in the United States.
November 1984: Center for Disease Control (CDC) "Evaluation of consumer complaints related to aspartame use." (summary by B. Mullarkey)
1985: Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle, the chemical company that held the patent to aspartame, the active ingredient in NutraSweet. Monsanto was apparently untroubled by aspartame's clouded past, including a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry, comprised of three independent scientists, which confirmed that it "might induce brain tumors". The aspartame business became a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company.
1986: Monsanto found guilty of negligently exposing a worker to benzene at its Chocolate Bayou Plant in Texas. It is forced to pay $100 million to the family of Wilbur Jack Skeen, a worker who died of leukemia after repeated exposures.
1986: At a congressional hearing, medical specialists denounce a National Cancer Institute study disputing that formaldehyde causes cancer. Monsanto and DuPont scientists helped with the study, whose author provided results to the Formaldehyde Institute industry representatives nearly six months before releasing the study to the EPA, labor unions, and the public.
1986: Monsanto spends $50,000 against California's anti-toxics initiative, Proposition 65. The initiative prohibits the discharge of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects into drinking water supplies.
1987: Monsanto conducted the first field tests of genetically engineered (GMO) crops.
1987: Monsanto is one of the companies named in an $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
1987: Monsanto consolidated its AstroTurf management, marketing, and technical activities in Dalton, Georgia, as AstroTurf Industries, Inc.
November 3, 1987: U.S. hearing, "NutraSweet: Health and Safety Concerns," Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Senator Howard Metzenbaum, chairman.
1988: A federal jury finds Monsanto Co.'s subsidiary, G.D. Searle & Co., negligent in testing and marketing of its Copper 7 intrauterine birth control device (IUD). The verdict followed the unsealing of internal documents regarding safety concerns about the IUD, which was used by nearly 10 million women between 1974 and 1986.
1990: EPA chemists allege fraud in Monsanto's 1979 dioxin study, which found exposure to the chemical doesn't increase cancer risks.
1990: Monsanto spends more than $405,000 to defeat California's pesticide regulation Proposition 128, known as the "Big Green" initiative. The initiative is aimed at phasing out the use of pesticides, including Monsanto's product alachlor, linked to cancer and
1990: With the help of Roundup, the agriculture division of Monsanto was significantly outperforming Monsanto's chemicals division in terms of operating income, and the gap was increasing. But as Glover notes, while "such a blockbuster product uncorks a fountain of revenue", it "also creates an uncomfortable dependency on the commercial fortunes of a single brand. Monsanto's management knew that the last of the patents protecting Roundup in the United States, its biggest market, would expire in the year 2000, opening the field to potential competitors. The company urgently needed a strategy to negotiate this hurdle and prolong the useful life of its 'cash cow'."
1991: Monsanto is fined $1.2 million for trying to conceal discharge of contaminated waste water into the Mystic River in Connecticut.
1993: By April, the Department of Veterans Affairs had only compensated 486 victims, although it had received disability **CLAIMS** from 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 some compensation was paid to U.S. veterans, according to William Sanjour, who led the Toxic Waste Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "thousands of veterans were disallowed benefits" because "Monsanto studies showed that dioxin [as found in Agent Orange] was not a human carcinogen." An EPA colleague discovered that Monsanto had apparently falsified the data in their studies. Sanjour says, "If [the studies] were done correctly, they would have reached just the opposite result."
1994: the first of Monsanto's biotech products to make it to market was not a GM crop but Monsanto's controversial GM cattle drug, bovine growth hormone - called rBGH or rBST, Monsanto granted regulatory approval for its first biotech product, a dairy cow hormone. Monsanto developed a recombinant version of BST, brand-named Posilac bovine somatropin (rBST/rBGH), which is produced through a genetically engineered GMO E. coli bacteria. Synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), approved by the FDA for commercial sale in 1994, despite strong concerns about its safety. Since then, Monsanto has sued small dairy companies that advertised their products as free of the artificial hormone, including Ben & Jerry's ice cream and most recently bringing a lawsuit against Oakhurst Dairy in Maine.
1995: Genetically engineered canola (rapeseed) which is tolerant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide was first introduced to Canada. Today 80% of the acres sown are genetically modified canola.
1995: Monsanto is sued after allegedly supplying radioactive material for a controversial study which involved feeding radioactive iron to 829 pregnant women.
1995: Monsanto ranked 5th among U.S. corporations in EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, having discharged 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, land, water and underground. Monsanto was ordered to pay $41.1 million to a waste management company in Texas due to concerns over hazardous waste dumping.
1995: The Safe Shoppers Bible says that Monsanto's Ortho Weed-B-Gon Lawn Weed Killer contains a known carcinogen, 2,4 D. Company officials argue that 'numerous studies have found no link to cancer'.
1996: Monsanto introduces its first biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, which tolerate spraying of Roundup herbicide, and biotech BT cotton engineered to resist insect damage.
As Monsanto had moved into biotechnology, its executives had the opportunity to create a new narrative for the company. They begun to portray genetic engineering as a ground-breaking technology that could contribute to feeding a hungry world. Monsanto executive Robb Fraley, who was head of the plant molecular biology research team, is also said to have hyped the potential of GM crops within the company, as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Monsanto to dominate a whole new industry, invoking the monopoly success of Microsoft as a powerful analogy. But, according to Glover, the more down-to-earth pitch to fellow executives was that "genetic engineering offered the best prospect of preserving the commercial life of Monsanto's most important product, Roundup in the face of the challenges Monsanto would face once the patent expired."
Monsanto eventually achieved this by introducing into crop plants genes that give resistance to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup). This meant farmers could spray Roundup onto their fields as a weedkiller even during the growing season without harming the crop. This allowed Monsanto to "significantly expand the market for Roundup and, more importantly, help Monsanto to negotiate the expiry of its glyphosate patents, on which such a large slice of the company's income depended." With glyphosate-tolerant GM crops, Monsanto was able ìto preserve its dominant share of the glyphosate market through a marketing strategy that would couple proprietary "Roundup Ready" seeds with continued sales of Roundup.
1996-1999: Monsanto sold off its plastics business to Bayer in 1996, and its phenylalanine facilities to Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (GLC) in 1999. Much of the rest of its chemicals division was spun off in late 1997 as Solutia. This helped Monsanto distance itself to some extent not only from direct financial liability for the historical core of its business but also from its controversial production and contamination legacy.
1997: Monsanto introduces new GMO canola (rapeseed), GMO cotton and GMO corn (maize), and buys foundation seed companies.
1997: Monsanto spins off its industrial chemical and fibers business into Solutia Inc. amid complaints and legal claims about pollution from its plants. Solutia was spun off from Monsanto as a way for Monsanto to divest itself of billions of dollars in environmental cleanup costs and other liabilities for its past actions - liabilities that eventually forced Solutia to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to a spokesman for Solutia, "(Monsanto) sort of cherry-picked what they wanted and threw in all kinds of cats and dogs as part of a going-away present," including $1 billion in debt and environmental and litigation costs. Some pre-bankruptcy Solutia equity holders allege Solutia was set up fraudulently as it was always doomed to fail under the financial weight of Monsanto's liabilities.
1997: The New York State Attorney General took Monsanto to court and Monsanto was subsequently forced to stop claiming that Roundup is "biodegradable" and "environmentally friendly".
1997: The Seattle Times reports that Monsanto sold 6,000 tons of contaminated waste to Idaho fertilizer companies, which contained the carcinogenic heavy metal cadmium, believed to cause cancer, kidney disease, neurological dysfunction and birth defects.
1997: Through a process of mergers and spin-offs between 1997 and 2002, Monsanto made a transition from chemical giant to biotech giant. Monsanto's corporate strategy led them for the first time to acquire seed companies. During the 1990s Monsanto spent $10 billion globally buying up seed companies - a push that continues to this day. It has purchased, for example, Holden's Foundations Seeds, Seminis - the largest seed company not producing corn or soybeans in the world, the Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds, and the big cotton seed firm Delta & Pine. As a result, Monsanto is now the world's largest seed company, accounting for almost a quarter of the global proprietary seed market.
1998: Monsanto introduces Roundup Ready corn (maize).
1998: "Survey of aspartame studies: correlation of outcome and funding sources," unpublished: Ralph G. Walton found 166 separate published studies in the peer reviewed medical literature, which had relevance for questions of human safety. The 74 studies funded by industry all (100%) attested to aspartame's safety, whereas of the 92 non-industry funded studies, 84 (91%) identified a problem. 6 of the 7 non-industry funded studies that were favorable to aspartame safety were from the FDA, which has a public record that shows a strong pro-industry bias.
1999: After international criticism, Monsanto agrees not to [PUBLICLY] commercialize "Terminator" seeds.
1999: Monsanto opens its Beautiful Sciences exhibit at Disneyland.
1999: Monsanto sells their phenylalanine facilities to Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (GLC) for $125 million. In 2000, GLC sued Monsanto because of a $71 million dollar shortfall in expected sales.
2000: 5 pesticide companies, including Monsanto, controlled over 70% of all patents on agricultural biotechnology.
2000: Since the inception of Plan Colombia, the US has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in funding aerial sprayings of Monsanto's Roundup herbicides in Colombia. The Roundup is often applied in concentrations 26x higher than what is recommended for agricultural use. Additionally, it contains at least one surfactant, Cosmo-Flux 411f, whose ingredients are a trade secret, has never been approved for use in the US, and which quadruples the biological action of the herbicide. Not surprisingly, numerous human health impacts have been recorded in the areas affected by the sprayings, including respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin problems, and even death, especially in children. Additionally, fish and animals will show up dead in the hours and days subsequent to the herbicide sprayings.
2000-2002: Monsanto merges with Pharmacia & Upjohn, and changes its name to Pharmacia Corporation. Monsanto Company restructures in deal with Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc; separates agricultural and chemicals businesses and becomes stand-alone agricultural company. By 2000 the current Monsanto had emerged from various transactions, including a merger for a time with Pharmacia, as a legally different corporation from the Monsanto that had existed from 1901-2000. This was despite the fact that both Monsantos shared not just the same name, but the same corporate headquarters near St. Louis, Missouri, and many of the same executives and other employees, not to mention much of the responsibility for liabilities arising out of its former activities.
2001: Retired Monsanto chemist William S. Knowles was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation, which was carried out at Monsanto beginning in the 1960s until his 1986 retirement.
2002: The Washington Post ran an article entitled, "Monsanto Hid Decades Of Pollution, PCBs Drenched Ala. Town, But No One Was Ever Told" about PCBs.
2003: Jury fines Monsanto and its former chemical subsidiary, Solutia, Inc. (now owned by Pharmacia Corp.), agreed to pay $600 million in August to settle claims brought by more than 20,000 residents of Anniston, AL - over the severe contamination of ground and water by tons of PCBs dumped in the area from the 1930s until the 1970s. Court documents revealed that Monsanto was aware of the contamination decades earlier.
2003: Solutia, Inc. (now owned by Pharmacia Corp.) files Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
2004: Monsanto forms American Seeds Inc holding company for corn and soybean seed deals and begins brand acquisitions.
2004-2005: Monsanto filed lawsuits against many farmers in Canada and the U.S. on the grounds of patent infringement, specifically the farmers' sale of seed containing Monsanto's patented genes. In some cases, farmers claimed the seed was unknowingly sown by wind carrying the seeds from neighboring crops, a claim rejected in Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser. These instances began in the mid to late 1990s, with one of the most significant cases being decided in Monsanto's favor by the Canadian Supreme Court. By a 5-4 vote in late May 2004, that court ruled that "by cultivating a plant containing the patented gene and composed of the patented cells without license, the appellants (canola farmer Percy Schmeiser) deprived the respondents of the full enjoyment of the patent." With this ruling, the Canadian courts followed the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision on patent issues involving plants and genes.
2005: Monsanto has patent claims on breeding techniques for pigs which would grant them ownership of any pigs born of such techniques and their related herds. Greenpeace claims Monsanto is trying to claim ownership on ordinary breeding techniques. Monsanto claims that the patent is a defensive measure to track animals from its system. They furthermore claim their patented method uses a specialized insemination device that requires less sperm than is typically needed.
2005: Environmental, consumer groups question safety of Roundup Ready crops, say they create "super weeds," among other problems.
2006: In January, the South Korean Appeals Court ordered Dow Chemical and Monsanto to pay $62 million in compensation to about 6,800 people.
2006: the Public Patent Foundation filed requests with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to revoke 4 patents that Monsanto has used in patent lawsuits against farmers. In the first round of reexamination, claims in all 4 patents were rejected by the Patent Office in 4 separate rulings dating from February through July 2007. Monsanto has since filed responses in the reexaminations.
2006-2007: Monsanto buys several regional seed companies and cotton seed leader Delta and Pine Land Co. - Competitors allege Monsanto gaining seed industry monopoly.
2007: Monsanto's biotech seeds and traits (including those licensed to other companies) accounted for almost 90% of the total world area devoted to GM seeds.
2007: USDA Dairy Survey estimated rBGH use at 15.2% of operations and 17.2% of cows.
2008: Monsanto sells Posilac business to Eli Lilly (polio vaccine manufacturer) amid consumer and food industry concerns about the dairy cow hormone supplement.
2008: Acquires sugarcane breeding companies, and a Dutch hybrid seed company.
2008-2009: U.S. Department of Justice says it is looking into monopolistic power in the U.S. seed industry.
2009: Monsanto posts record net sales of $11.7 billion and net income of $2.1 billion for fiscal 2009.
2009: Monsanto announces a project to improve the living conditions of 10,000 small cotton and corn farmers in 1,100 villages in India (keep in mind that 100,000 small cotton farmers in India commit suicide by drinking Roundup AFTER massive GMO crop failures bankrupted their families); donates cotton technology to academic researchers.
2010: Monsanto introduces their new brand Genuity
2010: Farmers in South Africa report 80% of the GMO corn was SEEDLESS at harvest time!
2010: Monsanto was named company of the year by Forbes magazine in January.
2010: Demand for milk without using synthetic hormones has increased 500% in the US since Monsanto introduced their rBST product. Monsanto has responded to this trend by lobbying state governments to ban the practice of distinguishing between milk from farms pledged not to use rBST and those that do.
Today, over 80% of the worldwide area devoted to GM crops carries at least one genetic trait for (Monsanto's Roundup) herbicide tolerance. Herbicides account for about one-third of the global pesticide market. Monsanto's glyphosate-resistant (Roundup Ready) seeds have reigned supreme on the biotech scene for over a decade - creating a near-monopoly for the company's Roundup herbicide - which is now off patent. Roundup is the world's biggest selling pesticide and it has helped make Monsanto the world's 5th largest agrochemical company.
How Aspartame Became Legal - The Timeline