Today the Monsanto name is primarily associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but in its 113 years of existence, the company has worked in very different spheres, producing from plastic to agent orange. The effects of this work continue to be felt around the world, and in some cases science has already shown that they have extremely harmful consequences on the environment and human health.
Currently,Monsanto is the leading producer of Roundup glyphosate herbicide and Bovine Growth Hormone, which are concerned about their effects on animals, people and the environment.
According to the company's website, its main challenge is "to meet current needs and preserve the planet for the future", but the results of its activity are reason to doubt this statement.
Due to the harmful effects of products created by Monsanto, the multinational has met with great resistance among the world population, expressed through strong criticism and massive protests that are held systematically around the world. Furthermore, the company has been repeatedly accused of counterfeiting and lobbying.
The voices of the people have achieved that Monsanto and genetically modified organisms have been banned in some countries while in many others the fight continues and citizens, concerned for their health and that of their children, are far from abandoning the battle.
The ‘monsters‘ by Monsanto
Agent Orange, nuclear weapons, PCBs, bovine growth hormone… History has more than once demonstrated the effects of Monsanto's creations. Here is a list of the 10 most dangerous ‘monsters’ that the multinational has launched on the market.
In 1901 John Francisco Queeny founded the Monsanto Chemical Works company in St. Louis, Missouri, to produce sugar substitutes for Coca Cola. Later, several studies with laboratory rats showed that saccharin causes cancer, and six human studies conducted by the US National Cancer Institute found that those who consume artificial sweeteners such as saccharin or cyclamate are more likely to later develop bladder cancer.
2. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
In the 1920s, Monsanto began to produce polychlorinated biphenyls, a coolant element for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Half a century later, the US Environmental Protection Agency presented evidence that PCBs cause cancer in both animals and humans. In 1979 the US Congress banned its production. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.
In 2003, Monsanto paid more than $ 600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, where these chemicals were produced. Residents of the area had suffered from serious health problems, including cancer, liver disease, and neurological disease. According to research conducted in the US in 2011, this element continues to appear in the blood of pregnant women, while other studies link PCB to autism.
In 1941 Monsanto turned to plastic and synthetic polystyrene for food packaging. In the 1980s the US Environmental Protection Agency ranked it as the fifth chemical product whose production generates the most dangerous waste, but it continues to occur.
4. Nuclear weapons and atomic bomb
In 1936 Monsanto acquired Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories in Ohio and made it its central Research department. Between 1943 and 1945 this department coordinated its efforts with the US National Defense Research Committee and dedicated itself to the purification and production of plutonium and to refine chemicals used to trigger nuclear weapons.
5. DDT (dichlor diphenyl trichloroethane)
In 1944, Monsanto was one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT (dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane), intended to fight malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. It was used intensively as a pesticide in agriculture. Despite decades of propaganda by Monsanto, which insisted that DDT was safe, finally its carcinogenic effects were confirmed and in 1972 DDT was banned throughout the U.S. Today it is known that causes infertility and failure of embryo development.
In 1945 Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture and manufactured the herbicide 2,4,5-T, one of the precursors of Agent Orange, which contains dioxin. Dioxins accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the adipose tissue of animals. They have high toxicity and can cause reproduction and development problems, affect the immune system, interfere with hormones, and thereby cause cancer.
7. Agent Orange
In the 1960s Monsanto was one of the manufacturers of Agent Orange, used as a chemical weapon in the Vietnam War. As a result of the use of Agent Orange around 400,000 people died or were maimed, 500,000 children were born with birth defects and 1 million people were disabled or suffered from health problems, including US military personnel exposed to the substance during the attacks. Monsanto's internal reports show that the company was aware of the toxic effects Agent Orange when he sold it to the US Government.
8. ‘Fertilizers’ from petroleum
After purchasing an oil refinery, in 1955 Monsanto began producing 'fertilizers' from oil. The problem is that oil-based fertilizers sterilize the land, since they also kill beneficial soil microorganisms.
Aspartame is a non-caloric sweetener between 150 and 200 times sweeter than sugar. It was discovered in 1965 by the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searl. In 1985 Monsanto bought G.D. Searl and began marketing the sweetener under the brand name NutraSweet. In 2000 he sold the brand.
The company claims that NutraSweet is present in 5,000 types of products and is consumed by 250 million people around the world. It is declared fit for human consumption in more than 90 countries. In February 1994 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a list of 94 adverse effects that the substance may have on human health.
In 2012, based on data from the Ramazzini Institute (Italy) that were able to test the carcinogenic effects of NutraSweet in rats, the European Commission requested to start a new process of re-evaluation of this compound.
10. Bovine Growth Hormone
Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBGH) - also known as' bovine growth hormone - is a genetically modified hormone by Monsanto that is injected into dairy cows to increase their production.
According to several investigations, especially European, there is a link between rBGH milk and breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in humans. It is noted that the product causes the most serious effects in children for two simple reasons: they drink more milk than adults and have less body mass that can process the contaminants in milk. The hormone is banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, the European Union and Argentina.
Myths and realities
On its website for Mexico, the company Monsanto Clears Up Some "Myths" About GMO Crops. Among other things, it "disproves" the following beliefs:
- that transgenic foods are harmful to health;
- that farmers lose by not being able to save transgenic seeds;
- herbicides increase environmental impact and damage biodiversity.
However, to try to distinguish myth from reality, take into account the many scientific studies on the subject, as well as complaints from international organizations and affected people.
Consequences for health
Regarding the health damage caused by transgenic foods, several studies conducted by experts associate GMO-based diets with tumors, organ failure, gastric injury, liver and kidney damage, severe allergic reactions and even premature death.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup's herbicide, Monsanto's most widely used worldwide, is "classified as a probable human carcinogen." The statement was based on analysis of exposure studies conducted in the US, Canada and Sweden since 2001, which provided "limited evidence" that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans.
The biotech giant denied these accusations and arranged an urgent meeting with WHO representatives. However, files from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed, In 1981 Monsanto was already aware that glyphosate could cause cancer in mammals.
According to another recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monsanto products lead to impaired brain development in newborns and could lead to a higher rate of autism in the US.
"At today's rate, by 2025 one in two children will be autistic", said during a scientific event the researcher Stephanie Seneff, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quoted by the portal 'The Most Important News'.
For their part, Egyptian researchers found that the diet of genetically modified soy and corn that they fed rats for 30, 60 and 90 days is responsible for a wide variety of toxic effects. Negative consequences include DNA, liver, kidney and testicle damage, abnormal sperm, and blood abnormalities.
"There are health risks associated with the intake of diets with genetically modified components," conclude the authors of the study, published in the "Turkish Journal of Biology."
But not only consumers, but also workers in the soy fields treated with Monsanto's herbicides suffer DNA damage and high levels of cell death, according to a group of researchers led by Danieli Benedetti. "Data from the comet assay on peripheral leukocytes and the micronuclear assay on exfoliated buccal cells showed DNA damage in soybean workers"says his study published on the portal 'Natural Society'.
Consequences for producers
The 'myth' of the biotechnology industry that maintains that transgenic agriculture is necessary to feed billions of people has been disproved by a report published last March by the environmental organization Environmental Working Group called 'Feeding the world without organisms genetically modified '.
The study argues that investment in OMG has failed to increase food security world and defends traditional methods "by currently showing that they increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production."
Over the past 20 years, the report notes, world crops have only grown 20%, despite massive investment in biotechnology. Furthermore, in recent decades the dominant source of production improvements is traditional crossover, "and this is likely to continue in the future."
A clear example of the impact of Monsanto's activity on producers is the wave of farmer suicides in India, a country where Monsanto controls 95% of cotton seeds.
According to the Indian philosopher and writer Vandana Shiva, what Monsanto did was destroy the alternatives and establish a monopoly on seeds. To attract farmers, the giant promised higher yields and lower spending on pesticides, which it never delivered.
This "high-cost monopoly system with no alternatives" has created a context that is conducive to rising debts and, as a consequence, the epidemic of farmer suicides, especially in the cotton industry.
In the same vein go the statements to RT by activist Jeffrey Smith, who states that Indian farmers commit suicide due to failure of Bt crops (genetically modified). Independent research confirms that "about 85% of farmer households in which suicide occurred are directly linked to Bt cotton failure and about another 10% are indirectly linked to Bt cotton failure," Smith explains.
According to the activist, the strategy with which Monsanto pushes Indian farmers to buy their modified seeds is to carry out field tests under ideal conditions, with irrigation. Without them, the seeds are not so good. In addition, the corporation inflated the statistics to promise that these types of seeds are a guarantee of prosperity, says Smith.
The monopoly that experts speak of has affected producers in other countries, first of all, countries where there are variations of the so-called 'Monsanto law', which regulate the rights over genetically modified organisms and which, according to farmers, They favor large transnational companies, violating the rights of peasants.
of genetically engineered seeds and the company's ability to sue farmers whose fields are inadvertently populated with its GMOs.
In this way, the high court left intact a decision of the Federal Court of Appeals that dismissed the lawsuit against Monsanto by the Organic Seed Producers and the Trade Association and more than 80 other plaintiffs who sought to stop the agrochemical company in its attempt. to sue any person in whose field there were seeds registered by the company without paying patent rights.
The group of plaintiffs, which included many American and Canadian farming families, independent seed companies, and agricultural organizations, sought preventive protection against Monsanto's patents, as the biotech giant had filed more than 140 lawsuits against farmers by planting the company's genetically engineered seeds without permission.
The plaintiffs argued that they did not want Monsanto's genetically modified organisms and wanted legal protection in the event of accidental contamination with the company's products.
Similar laws were passed in other countries, such as Mexico, where it is called the Biosafety Law for Genetically Modified Organisms. In Chile, the initiative entered processing in 2009, during the first government of Michelle Bachelet, but in 2014, during her current mandate, the withdrawal of its processing was announced.
But not only American and Latin American farmers, but also Africans could be victims of the 'Monsanto law'. At the beginning of last January, a bill on seed improvement was reported that had received the support of the Parliament of Ghana, and which, according to many experts, could jeopardize the food sovereignty of the African country, as it contains rules that would restrict the ancestral practices of farmers.
Such an initiative would prohibit local farmers from free storage, exchange, and improvement of seeds, since it is intended to protect the intellectual property rights of biotechnology, making farmers subject to heavy fines for growing whatever is been 'patented', even if these crops come from cross pollination.
"The economic impact on the lives of farmers will be disastrous [...]. The origin of food is the seed. Whoever controls the seeds controls the entire food chain," said Duke Tagoe, spokesman for the Ghana Food Sovereignty association.
Consequences for the environment
The effects that Monsanto products have on nature are not without concern for environmentalists and environmentalists.
One of the most recent cases is that of the monarch butterfly, the most emblematic of North America, whose habitat is being destroyed by pesticides produced by the company.
According to a report published in February this year by scientists at the US Center for Food Safety, the extensive use in agriculture of the herbicide Roundup has brought the North American population of the monarch butterfly to the brink of extinction.
Scientists explain that agricultural technology that combines the use of glyphosate, the active substance of the herbicide, with the cultivation of genetically modified plants has decimated the main food source of this species of butterflies: milkweed and other herbs of the genus 'Asclepias' .
"Letting the monarch butterfly disappear to allow Monsanto to sell its weed killer for a few more years is simply embarrassing," said the center's executive director, Andrew Kimbrell.
After these accusations, the biotechnology giant declared that it will spend four million dollars to save the population of monarch butterflies.
In another alarming case, which occurred last fall in Ontario, Canada, more of 37 million bees died after transgenic corn was planted in the area.
Beekeepers blame neonicotinoids for the death of their colonies, especially to imidacloprid and clothianidin, two insecticides that are applied to both seeds and foliar treatments and that penetrate pollen and nectar.
To the consequences for fauna we must add emissions of toxic chemicals in the company's factories.
As proof of this, last March the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced an agreement by which the agricultural giant will pay $ 600,000 for not having reported Hundreds of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals at its phosphate factory in Idaho.
These emissions occurred between 2006 and 2009 at Monsanto's facilities in the city of Soda Springs. Among the chemicals that were released were hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.
Rejection of Monsanto
Monsanto has been and continues to be the target of strong criticism and massive protests that are systematically held around the world.
The two largest-scale demonstrations occurred in October 2013 and May 2014.
On October 12, 2013, International Day Against Monsanto, citizens of different US states and around the world took to the streets to ask for more clarity in the labeling and to denounce two things: on the one hand, the harmful nature of transgenic products and, on the other, the excessive control and interventionism of multinationals like Monsanto in US politics.
In May 2014, a global event was organized to challenge the agricultural giant's efforts to dominate the world's food supply. Millions of anti-GMO activists from 400 cities in 52 countries joined forces against the biotech company.
In one of the most recent cases, in January 2015, thousands of people demonstrated in Berlin to show their rejection of the free trade agreement between the European Union and the US Farmers and environmentalists denounced the risks that this agreement represents for Germany , since they fear that the document will open the European market to transgenic and chemically treated products from the North American country.
The risks they represent GMOs have even been denounced by personalities from different fields. Thus, the famous American actor Chuck Norris, frustrated by the health risks posed by the world's most popular herbicide, warned in an article in "WND Health" about the danger of this product manufactured by Monsanto.
The actor highlighted that, for the regulation of glyphosate, the US Government relies on evidence and data provided by Monsanto, which considers that the risks are negligible. "But I have an uncomfortable feeling hearing expressions like 'negligible risks' or 'insufficient evidence' when the subject is the potential impact and continued proliferation of an ever-present synthetic compound that has yet to be the subject of extensive and independent study by of the Government of the USA ", emphasizes.
Rejected by entire countries
Encountering great resistance among the population in Europe, Monsanto announced in 2013 its withdrawal from the European market, with the exception of three countries: Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic.
In January 2015, after the European Parliament passed a directive that allows each member to decide whether to ban GMOs or not in their territory, the biotech giant confirmed that "it will not spend any more money to convince people that GMOs cultivate ".
China, one of the top buyers of North American corn, has recently demonstrated a zero tolerance policy towards the importation of genetically modified products, increasing the consumption of its own production.
In the opinion of many experts, Beijing began rejecting supplies of US corn last November when it detected a genetically modified strain that had not been approved by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.
In RussiaIn late January, the Government Commission for Legislative Activities approved a bill that prohibits the cultivation of plants and the breeding of genetically modified animals in the country's territory, except for scientific research. Furthermore, the document gives the Government the right to ban the importation of products containing GMOs based on the results of monitoring and scientific research.
The fight against the multinational continues in other countries, such as Mexico, where corn producers and scientists strive to prevent the government from authorizing transnational corporations like Monsanto to grow transgenic corn grains, one of the country's staple foods.
"That corn has no life, that corn has no spirit. That corn is not our brother. It is a strange being for us. For us, what is sacred is our corn, "Amalia Sala Casales, a traditional Sochimilco producer of corn, explained to RT.
In ArgentinaIn 2014, various parties and environmental groups presented a project to repudiate the Monsanto company and its products.
Rodrigo Lampasona, communicator and activist of the campaign ‘I do not want transgenics in Chile‘He told RT that it is very important that the citizens of Latin America are participating in movements against the activities of transgenic multinationals in the area.
"Companies need to sell their chemicals. These companies had never been involved in the production of food before, they are large agrochemical companies - Monsanto is only one of the six best known - and what they are interested in is the monopoly of food (if you can call what food they build in the laboratory), since an extraordinary amount of money is moved here and, of course, what is intended is to have a monopoly on the seed, on food, "specifies the activist.
"Thus, Any strategy that these transgenic companies make, they will always do it from a total lack of ethics"concludes Lampasona.