Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - For many of us, Monsanto entered public awareness with its advent into the GMO biotech market in the 1970’s, and the subsequent first genetic modification of a plant cell in 1983. Actually, the Monsanto Chemical Works was founded by John Queeny at the turn of the 19th century. It originally produced products such as saccharin, synthetic vanillin, and laxative and sedative drugs. Queeny’s son, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, ran the company from the 1920’s until the late 1960’s He added sulfuric acid, PCBs, DDT and synthetic fibers such as polystyrene to the product line.
Also during that time Monsanto created Agent Orange, a combination of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, that was used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Dioxin was a breakdown byproduct of 2,4,5-T. In areas where Agent Orange was used, the concentration of dioxin was hundreds of times greater than the levels considered safe by the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). This resulted in a host of terrible health consequences for anyone exposed. and led to decades of litigation during which Monsanto fought tooth and nail to avoid paying for the horrific damage military personnel suffered from. The class action case that followed was settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), used in many industries as hydraulic fluids, sealants, and lubricants, are known to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.
Monsanto’s move into biotech began in the 1970’s, and in 1983 the first genetic modification of a plant cell was achieved. Monsanto’s public relations department portrayed GM seeds as a panacea for alleviating poverty and feeding the hungry.
Monsanto and Genentech collaborated in the synthesis of the controversial milk production hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) commercially known as “Posilac.” In 2008 Monsanto sold this business to Eli Lily.
In 1985, the Monsanto bought NutraSweet (aspartame) - the compound responsible for 75% of the complaints reported to the FDA’s adverse reaction monitoring system.
In an attempt to clean up its tarnished image, in the late 1990’s, Monsanto spun-off a new company known as Solutia, and off-loaded its chemical and fiber businesses thus channeling most of Monsanto’s mounting chemical lawsuits and liabilities into the spun-off company.
As Monsanto moved into the 21st century it referred to itself as a relatively new company that promotes sustainable agriculture and delivering products that support farmers around the world. The facts of history do not support this image as many countries prohibit the use of its GMO’s and glyphosate and Monsanto is the third most hated company in the world (right behind oil juggernaut BP (responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history) and Bank of America (known for being a key player in the meltdown of the financial market).
Monsanto’s legacy of contamination and cover-up should be a wake up call for all of us to run from the GMO’s they have spawned.
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