Behind a Corporate Monster: How Monsanto Pushes Agricultural Domination

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A farmhand loads genetically modified corn seed into a planter on Bo Stone’s farm in Rowland, North Carolina, April 20, 2016. (Photo: Jeremy M. Lange / The New York Times)

Monsanto, one of the world’s biggest pesticide and seed corporations and leading developer of genetically modified crop varieties, had a stock market value of US$66 billion in 2014. It has gained this position by a combination of deceit, threat, litigation, destruction of evidence, falsified data, bribery, takeovers and cultivation of regulatory bodies.

Its rise and torrid controversies cover a long period starting with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, chemicals used as insulators for electrical transformers) in the 1940s and moving on to dioxin (a contaminant of Agent Orange used to defoliate Vietnam), glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH, a hormone injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production), and genetic modified organisms (GMOs).

Its key aim in dealing with health and environmental issues is to protect sales and profits and the company image. The latter has been a monumental failure, making Monsanto potentially the most hated corporation in the world.

To better sell its GMO technology, Monsanto began acquiring seed companies in 1996 and within 10 years became the largest seed supplier in the world. If the planned merger with German multinational Bayer takes place, the combined corporate giant will control a third of the world’s seed market and a quarter of the pesticide market.

Influence

Gaining friends in high places and managing regulatory body policy has been crucial to Monsanto’s power. There is a crossover between Monsanto and the US Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US Department of Agriculture, the European Food Safety Authority and some United Nations food regulatory arms.

This crossover works in four ways: retired legislators move to Monsanto; legislators become…

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