October 3, 2007 —
Monsanto is the maker of Roundup and numerous other herbicide products. Roundup is used approximately 25 million times a year in the United States. The product's chief ingredient is glyphosphate, marketed as "benign," yet it has been shown to cause short-term breathing problems and long-term issues including genetic damage to blood cells.
Monsanto is also the maker of bioengineered seeds and hormones that are intended to increase milk supply. The hormone is banned in Europe, and Monsanto is trying to overturn the ban in the United States. Bioengineered seeds, which are designed to be tolerant to Roundup, may spread beyond their initial planting and cause natural seeds to become sterile, thus forcing farmers to purchase Monsanto’s seeds. In addition, there have been cases where wind gusts blew Monsanto’s seeds onto independent farmland, which then led Monsanto to demand the farmer’s pay for the seeds (even though they were unwanted) and bring some farmers to court for intellectual property rights violations.
In the 1990s, as the environmental movement began to gain some momentum, Monsanto began claiming some of its products were “bio-degradable” and “eco-friendly.” A lawsuit forced the company to stop making these statements. Groups such as the Organic Consumers Association have organized widespread boycotts of Monsanto products. Monsanto was the subject of a documentary, The Future of Food (released in 2004), which took on the agricultural giant. The company claimed the film was not factual, whereas the filmmaker claimed that it provided important and scientifically proven evidence that genetically engineered food is harmful.
Monsanto claims that growth hormones, bio-engineered seeds, and herbicides will help reduce worldwide hunger by allowing farmers to grow more efficiently and cheaper. Monsanto sponsors a television series called American Heartland.
Monsanto's history includes the manufacture and marketing of Agent Orange, which continues to have a devastating impact in Viet Nam, and NutraSweet, which the FDA has linked to brain cancer.