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Monsanto/Bayer: Shedding the Layers of a Polluted Past

by businessian
Monsanto/Bayer

Monsanto/Bayer

On 26th September 1901, John F. Queeny, a purchasing agent for a drug company, founded Monsanto Chemical Works, with its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. The first-ever product manufactured by this company was a sweetener called saccharin (which was only available in Germany till then).

What’s interesting is that Monsanto started its journey as an industrial chemical manufacturer, only to gradually gain dominion in the world of agriculture. Currently, 20,000 people across the world are employed by this chemical Giant as it vigorously tries to rid itself of a tainted past.

Over 120 years of existence and acquisition (by Bayer), where does the company stand today? Let’s walk through Monsanto’s rich and dark history.

A Detailed Timeline

For the first 20 years of its existence, Monsanto exclusively remained a manufacturer of the American equivalent of saccharin. However, the early 1920s were the years when things began to change.

  • The 1920s to 1930s – Monsanto was heavily involved in manufacturing full-blown chemicals, including sulfuric acid, polychlorinated biphenyls, etc. Within two decades, it was discovered that these chemicals increased the risk of developing developmental and reproductive disorders.
  • The 1940s – The next two decades saw Monsanto manufacturing synthetic fibers and plastics.
  • The 1960s – This was where the big picture came into play as Monsanto established its agricultural division, with a special focus on the manufacture of herbicides.
  • 1962 – 1971 – Monsanto had already reached the ranks of the most premium company to supply herbicides (called Agent Orange) for use in the Vietnam War. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange was linked to several health risks like Type II diabetes, bladder cancer, AL amyloidosis, Hodgkin’s disease, Ischemic heart disease, etc.
  • 1974 – This was an important year for the company as it introduced the first batch of Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide or weed killer in the US market. Shortly after, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted its approval.
  • 1976 – Roundup was commercialized and sold to farmers as a safe and effective herbicide. Monsanto’s bold claims that Roundup is safer than table salt made it the most popular weed killer across the US. A study by the PennState Extension seemed to confirm Monsanto’s claims as it accepted the general toxicity of herbicides whilst stating the principle of toxicology that the “dosage makes the poison.”
  • 1982 – Around 2,000 people from the Times Beach, Missouri area were relocated because a St. Louis Monsanto plant contaminated the area with PCB dioxin by-products.
  • 1996 – Monsanto was accused of carrying out exploitative advertisements for Roundup.
  • 1997 – Complaints against Monsanto piled up as the company continued spinning off its chemical business into an established Solutia Inc. Monsanto also proceeded to manufacture genetically modified (GMO) cotton, canola, etc., and purchased foundation seed companies. In the same year, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published its report on the Genotoxic Activity of Glyphosate and its Technical Formulation Roundup. The active agent of Roundup, glyphosate, was found to cause chromosomal damage in mice.
  • 1998 – A year later, Monsanto immediately introduced its Roundup-resistant corn. Now, the weeds would die while the crop could survive. This was clearly a cart-before-the-horse move, as later revealed by the National Library of Medicine. Roundup-ready maize was fed to mice for 90 days, and shocking results were recorded – higher mortality rates, mammary tumors, chronic kidney deficiencies, necrosis, and liver congestions.
  • 2004 – Monsanto formed the American Seeds Inc. Holding for soybean and corn seed dealings. It received patents and started brand acquisitions.
  • 2005 – Monsanto’s GMO crops created another major problem. The crops transferred into local wild plants, thereby forming super-weed (which looked like an excuse-to-use-Roundup in the making).
  • 2006 – 2007 – The company continued purchasing numerous regional seed businesses in an attempt to gain seed monopoly. Farmers had to sign a contract with Monsanto, agreeing to not replant seeds from one season to the other. In case Monsanto found its seeds to be mixed with other agricultural varieties, farmers were immediately sued.
  • 2008 – 2009 – The US Department of Justice announced that it was vying for monopolistic seed power across the US.

When Enough Is Enough

The public was growing increasingly impatient with Monsanto’s attempts to dodge revealing a complete ingredients list for Roundup-ready crops. The first-ever mass protest in the form of March against Monsanto was held in more than 50 countries across the world in 2013.

The aim was to awaken people to the dangers of GMO crops and how they contaminate even the non-GMO ones. Every year, rallies were held worldwide to express public disapproval of Monsanto and its genetically engineered products.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that the main agent in Roundup – glyphosate – was “probably a carcinogenic to humans.” A year later (2016), Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper from California, filed the first-ever Roundup lawsuit against Monsanto.

Johnson claimed that years of Roundup usage was the reason behind his Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With the help of the best lawyer for the Roundup lawsuit, Johnson’s case went to a bellwether trial where Monsanto (then acquired by Bayer in 2018) was asked to pay $289 million in settlements.

With this first loss came thousands of other Roundup lawsuits, reaching a total of 100,000. According to TorHoerman Law, the company had to pay at least $10 billion in payouts and settlements (with a few victories here and there). Even today, close to 30,000 active Roundup lawsuits are pending in the US Federal Court.

Bayer has decided to take down Roundup from the shelves for residential use starting in 2023. However, it still plans to keep it available for commercial farmers, maintaining that Roundup is safe and effective.

Bayer’s Five-Point Plan to Close Roundup Lawsuits

As for the huge load of lawsuits still sitting in the US Federal Court, the company has developed a solid five-point plan, as follows:

1.      Attempts to Gain a Positive Ruling from the US Supreme Court

Bayer believes that plenty of Roundup cases in the future will offer it the opportunity to present preemption questions at the US Supreme Court. The company is also hoping for a Circuit Split. As soon as any of these occur, it should have necessary grounds for a review.

2.      Establishing an Active Claims Program for Future Case

Bayer has already created a backup plan of sorts or an additional provision of $4.5 billion that may be used towards anticipated claims settlements. This is contingent on a negative outcome in the US Supreme Court. However, the same would leave a considerable upside if the outcome is favorable.

3.      Strategically Settling Current Cases

The company has currently resolved, settled, or dismissed at least 109,000 cases out of the whopping 154,000 filed. It plans to continue settling current cases in a strategic manner. After seven consecutive trial victories, Bayer is confident that it will be able to defend cases if a trial is deemed appropriate.

4.      Introducing Fresh US Lawn and Garden Rules

Bayer is preparing to reduce litigation risk further by transitioning its glyphosate products to new lawn and garden rules. Since the vast majority of cases have been filed by residential users, recalling Roundup for residential use should help manage future litigation risk. Commercial farmers would continue to have access to the product.

5.      Promoting a New Safety Study Webpage

Bayer created a new webpage at the end of 2021 called the EPA’s Review of Glyphosate Safety. This webpage consists of links to scientific studies that offer more transparency on the safety and efficacy of glyphosate. It intends to request permission from the EPA to promote that webpage on all glyphosate labels in the future.

Final Thoughts

Many people wonder about the reason behind Bayer’s move to acquire one of the most evil companies known in the history of mankind – Monsanto. Well, this is only because they do not understand that Bayer itself has a dark past, if not darker than Monsanto.

In 1898, Bayer & Co. introduced Heroin as a cough suppressant and pain reliever. Despite being packaged and sold as safe and effective, chronic use (given the drug is so addictive) led to heart infections, miscarriages, and deaths due to overdose.

The 2018 acquisition is simply an attempt to cover up Monsanto’s polluted past from surfacing as the company aims to control the seed, and thereby, the food supply of the world. To the eyes that can see, something sinister is at play on a grand scale.

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