fevereiro 16, 2007

Monsanto: A checkered history*

*Nota do editor: Matéria de 09 de Janeiro de 1998.

Is Monsanto the “clean and green” company its advertisements promote, or is the new image merely a product of clever public relations?

Monsanto’s high-profile advertisements in Britain and the US depict the corporation as a visionary, world-historical force, working to bring state-of-the-art science and an environmentally responsible outlook to the solution of humanity’s pressing problems. But just who is Monsanto? Where did they come from? How did they get to be the world’s second largest manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, one of the largest producers of seeds and soon – with the impending merger with American Home Products – the largest seller of prescription drugs in the United States? What do their workers, their customers, and the others whose lives they have impacted, have to say? Is Monsanto the “clean and green” company its advertisements promote, or is the new image merely a product of clever public relations? A look at the historical record offers some revealing clues, and may help us to better understand the company’s present-day practices?

Headquartered just outside St. Louis, Missouri, the Monsanto Chemical Company was founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny. Queeny, a self-educated chemist, brought technology to manufacture saccharine, the first artificial sweetener, from Germany to the United States. In the 1920s, Monsanto became a leading manufacturer of sulphuric acid and other base industrial chemicals, and is one of the only companies to be listed among the top ten US chemical companies in every decade since the 1940s.

By the 1940s, plastics and synthetic fabrics had become a centrepiece of Monsanto’s business. In 1947, a French freighter carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer blew up at a dock 270 feet from Monsanto’s plant outside Galveston, Texas. More than 500 people died in what came to be seen as one of the chemical industry’s first major disasters. The plant was manufacturing styrene and polystyrene plastics, which are still important constituents of food packaging and various consumer products. In the 1980s the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed polystyrene as fifth in its ranking of chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.

*Abaixo, o legado tóxico da empresa.


Dioxin: A Legacy of Contamination

Agent Orange: The Poisoning of Vietnam

Roundup: The World’s Biggest-Selling Herbicide

Biotechnology’s Brave New World

Roundup-Ready Soybeans (RRS)

Shapiro, The Image-Maker

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