The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as "Roundup". Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In March 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, making it also the largest conventional seed company in the world. It has over 18,800 employees worldwide, and an annual revenue of USD$8.563 billion reported for 2007.
Monsanto's development and marketing of genetically engineered seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive litigation and political lobbying practices, have made the company controversial around the world and a primary target of the anti-globalization movement and environmental activists.
Monsanto was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1901, by John Francis Queeny, a 30-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry. He funded the start-up with his own money and capital from a soft drink distributor, and gave the company his wife's maiden name. The company's first product was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which it sold to the Coca-Cola Company. It also introduced caffeine and vanillin to Coca-Cola, and became one of that company's main suppliers. In 1919, Monsanto established its presence in Europe by entering into a partnership with Graesser's Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr in Ruabon, Wales to produce vanillin, salicylic acid, aspirin and later rubber.
In its second decade, the 1920s, Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals like sulfuric acid, and the decade ended with Queeny's son Edgar Monsanto Queeny taking over the company in 1928.
The 1940s saw Monsanto become a leading manufacturer of plastics, including polystyrene, and synthetic fibers. Since then, it has remained one of the top 10 US chemical companies. Other major products have included the herbicides 2,4,5-T, DDT, and Agent Orange used primarily during the Vietnam War as a deforestation agent (and later proven to be highly carcinogenic to any who come into contact with the solution), aspartame (NutraSweet), bovine somatotropin (bovine growth hormone (BST), and PCBs. Also in this decade, Monsanto operated the Dayton Project, and later Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg, Ohio, for the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear weapons and, after 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission. Monsanto began manufacturing DDT in 1944, along with some 15 other companies. The use of DDT in the U.S. was banned by Congress in 1972, due in large efforts to environmentalists, who persisted in the challenge put forth by Rachel Carson and her book, Silent Spring in 1962, which sought to inform the public of the side effects associated with the insecticide. In 1947, an accidental explosion of ammonium nitrate fertilizer loaded on the French ship S.S. Grandcamp destroyed an adjacent Monsanto styrene manufacturing plant, along with much of the port at Galveston Bay. The explosion, known as the Texas City Disaster, is considered the largest industrial accident in US history, with the highest death toll. As the decade ended, Monsanto acquired American Viscose from England's Courtauld family in 1949.
In 1954, Monsanto partnered with German chemical giant Bayer to form Mobay and market polyurethanes in the US. In the 1960s and 1970s, Monsanto became the leading producer of Agent Orange for US Military operations in Vietnam.
In 1980, Monsanto established the Edgar Monsanto Queeny safety award in honor of its former CEO (1928–1960), to encourage accident prevention.
Monsanto scientists became the first to genetically modify a plant cell in 1982. Five years later, Monsanto conducted the first field tests of genetically engineered crops.
Through a process of mergers and spin-offs between 1997 and 2002, Monsanto has made a transition from chemical giant to biotech giant. Part of this process involved the 1999 sale by Monsanto of 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.
With the dawn of the new millennium in 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.
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Monsanto filed lawsuits against many farmers in Canada and the U.S. The lawsuits have been on the grounds of patent infringement, specifically the farmer's sale of seed containing Monsanto's patented genes–which require the farmer initial purchase of the seed and its technology–unknowingly sown by wind carrying the seeds from neighboring crops. 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.
As of February 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 typical.
In 2006, the Public Patent Foundation filed requests with the U.S. Patent Office to revoke four patents that Monsanto has used in patent lawsuits against farmers. In the first round of reexamination, claims in all four patents were rejected by the Patent Office in four separate rulings dating from February through July 2007. Monsanto has since filed responses in the reexaminations.
Spin-offs and mergers
Through a series of transactions, the Monsanto that existed from 1901–2000 and the current Monsanto are legally two different corporations. Although they share the same name, corporate headquarters, many of the same executives and other employees, and responsibility for liabilities arising out of its former 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. A timeline follows:
1985: Monsanto purchases G. D. Searle & Company. In this merger, Searle's aspartame business became a separate Monsanto subsidiary, the NutraSweet Company. CEO of NutraSweet, Robert B. Shapiro, goes on to become CEO of Monsanto from 1995 to 2000.
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 announced 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 totaled $925M. Also, in April, Monsanto purchases the remaining shares of Calgene.
1999: Monsanto sells Nutrasweet Co. and two other companies.
2000: Monsanto merges with Pharmacia and Upjohn. 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 remaining interest in Monsanto, which has since existed as a separate 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, the largest seed company not producing corn or soybeans in the world.
2008: Monsanto purchases the Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for about 855 million dollars.
Monsanto has been the corporate sponsor of many attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
At Disneyland they include:
* Hall of Chemistry
* Fashions and Fabrics through the Years
* House of The Future
* Adventure Thru Innerspace
And at Walt Disney World they included:
* Magic Eye Theatre
* Circle Vision 360
All attractions that the company has ever sponsored were located in Tomorrowland.