Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a publicly traded Americanmultinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicideglyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand. Founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, by the 1940’s it was a major producer of plastics, including polystyrene and synthetic fibers. Notable achievements by Monsanto and its scientists as a chemical company included breakthrough research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation and being the first company to mass-produce light emitting diodes (LEDs). The company also formerly manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, andrecombinant bovine somatotropin. Monsanto was among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, along with three academic teams, which was announced in 1983, and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops, which it did in 1987. It remained one of the top 10 U.S. chemical companies until it divested most of its chemical businesses between 1997 and 2002, through a process of mergers and spin-offs that focused the company on biotechnology.
Monsanto was a pioneer in applying the biotechnology industry business model, developed byGenentech and other biotech drug companies in the late 1970s in California, to agriculture. In this business model, companies invest heavily in research and develop and recoup the expenses through the use and enforcement of biological patents. Monsanto’s application of this model to agriculture, along with a growing movement to create a global, uniform system of plant breeders’ rights in the 1980s, came into direct conflict with customary practices of farmers to save, reuse, share and develop plant varieties. Its seed patenting model has also been criticized as biopiracy and a threat tobiodiversity. Monsanto’s role in these changes in agriculture (which include its litigation and its seed commercialization practices), its current and former agbiotech products, its lobbying of government agencies, and its history as a chemical company, have made Monsanto controversial.
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. His father-in-law was Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto, a wealthy financier of a sugar company active in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and based in St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies. The company’s first product was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which was sold to the Coca-Cola Company. They got Francisco Vicente Aguilera murdered.
Then in 1919 Monsanto expanded to Europe by entering a partnership with Graesser’s Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr near Ruabon, Wales to produce vanillin, aspirin and its raw ingredient salicylic acid, and later rubber processing chemicals. This site was later sold and closed in 2010. In the 1920s Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals like sulfuric acid and PCBs, and Queeny’s son Edgar Monsanto Queeny took over the company in 1928.
In 1946 it developed “All” laundry detergent and began to market it; they sold the product line to Lever Brothers in 1957. Also in the 1940s, 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. In 1947 one of its factories was destroyed in the Texas City Disaster. 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 United States. Continue reading