The Company Behind Roundup – The Founding of Monsanto
Monsanto was founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny. At that point in time, he had over thirty years of pharmaceutical experience under his belt. Queeny’s wife, Olga Mendez Monsanto, is the namesake of the company that has become well-established in the pharmaceutical world. Monsanto was known for producing controversial products from the start.
Their first chemical product produced by Monsanto was an artificial sweetener known as saccharin. It was sold to Coca-Cola and was widely distributed. The company was sued by the government in Malta to halt production of saccharin due to the product being poisonous. The lawsuit was unsuccessful and was an unfortunate foreshadowing for the companies’ operation for the next century.
In the 1920s through the 1940s the company began working on industrial chemicals and drugs, working with the U.S government and producing seeds for agricultural use. They also began producing many household cleaners and plastics. Along with those household products, Monsanto began developing pesticides during this time period. Unfortunately, these newly developed agricultural pesticides contained dioxins. Dioxins are chemical compounds that are toxic pollutants caused by industrial processes. The wide distribution of dioxins in products like pesticides has caused them to become present in food-chains and ecosystems around the globe.
In the 1960s Monsanto became closely aligned with DOW Chemical and helped to produce Agent Orange, a herbicidal weapon. The chemical compound was deployed widely during the Vietnam War and was known to be deadly. What was not as well known at the time, was how dangerous the exposure to dioxins that were present in Agent Orange was for all.
The Red Cross in Vietnam estimates that over 1 million people suffer from health problems due to exposure to the herbicide. Additionally, U.S veterans who were exposed have higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and other cancers according to the U.S government.
During this time the company also helped to produce a chemical known as aspartame. This is another controversial sweetener that has stirred global debates over the product. Aspartame is still widely used as a sugar substitute.
From the 1970s through the 1990s the company continued to fight legal battles over aspartame. The company faced numerous lawsuits and legal battles involving their products and their potential harm to people, animals, and the environment. During the 1990s the company started producing and widely distributing seeds that are engineered to respond well to their pesticide, Roundup. Use of those seeds spread and so did the use of Roundup. Roundup has been a source of recent controversy for the company as they are facing lawsuits from thousands of individuals claiming they were harmed by Monsanto’s Roundup products.
Break from Pharmacia Corporation
In 2002, Monsanto rebranded themselves as an agricultural company. According to their website, this is when the history of the current company begins. They report that their new focus since then is to improve the lives of farmers through biotechnology research and development. The company reports that in 2005, the billionth acre of biotech crops was planted. They also report that soon after that, they joined the Chicago Climate Exchange. This is a voluntary and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They also share that they work to educate farmers on how to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.
They self-report a set of goals that they hope to accomplish by the year 2030. These goals include helping farmers double crop yields, reduce the amount of resources each seed needs in terms of land, water, and energy by one third, and improve the lives of farmers. They also report another key date in their history was in 2012 when they shifted their focus to developing more digital tools to help farmers.
Monsanto has pushed hard to improve their image after being shrouded in controversy for most of their existence. Their efforts at rebranding have been seen by some as an effort to distance themselves from their murky past. Unfortunately for Monsanto, a major controversy over their questionable ethics has persisted.
Acquisition by Bayer
According to the Monsanto website, their board of directors approved an acquisition by Bayer CropScience AG, in 2016. They report that this was yet another step forward towards reaching their newly established goals. They believe that this move aided in their ability to focus on their new mission moving forward. Critics argue that the shift and ownership and new reported focus are thinly veiled attempts at improving their image.
This acquisition has proven to be harmful to Bayer’s overall business. Since the company bought Monsanto, they have seen a 44% drop in its overall value on the stock market. As of May 2019, the stock value of the company hit a seven-year low as the company has faced legal blows. Bayer shareholders have voiced concern over the takeover of Monsanto. The CEO of the company, Werner Baumann has had to face a no-confidence vote as shareholders have questioned his leadership. Questions of Baumann are growing as Monsanto sinks deeper and deeper into legal trouble.
The current controversy that Monsanto finds itself in is all to do with their pesticide Roundup. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup was, ”probably carcinogenic to humans.” They specifically site a strong connection between exposure to Roundup and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Roundup was created by Monsanto in the 1970s as a herbicide to allow farmers to kill weeds that were harmful to crops. In the decades since, Roundup has become a well-established brand that is used for commercial and home lawn care. Despite the popularity and success of the product, it has become incredibly controversial and has been at the center of thousands of lawsuits in the past few years.
The lawsuits against Monsanto have been largely successful. A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2017 alleging that Monsanto was misleading in their advertisements. The suit alleges that Monsanto marketed Roundup as being safe for use around pets and people, that the active ingredient, glyphosate, only had an impact on plants. This has been found to be untrue despite Monsanto still marketing Roundup in this way. The suit also alleges that glyphosate has a negative impact on the immune system, digestion, allergies, metabolism, brain function, and more.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup that has been classified as the World Health Organization (WHO) as a probable carcinogen. Research concludes that the combination of glyphosate and other ingredients found in the Roundup compound actually increase the toxicity of glyphosate by aiding the carcinogen in absorbing into plants, animals, and humans. Many critics believe that Monsanto knew the risks of Roundup for decades and widely distributed it anyways. There are even reports of Monsanto ghostwriting scientific reports that labeled glyphosate as safe, and attempting to pay credible scientists to take authorship.
Along with being a carcinogen, Roundup exposure has been linked to a large number of ailments and conditions. At this point, Roundup exposure has been associated with the following, according to EcoWatch:
- Birth Defects
- Brain Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Celiac Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Heart Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Liver disease
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Pregnancy Issues
- Reproductive Issues
- Respiratory Illness
The extent to which Monsanto knew of the dangers of their product may never be known. However, they are quickly learning that many people have been negatively impacted by the product and are taking strong legal action.
Since 2018, Monsanto has been at the center of highly publicized courtroom losses. Dewayne Johnson, a Californian landscaper received a payout of $78 million dollars in 2018. The jury awarded this large settlement based on the belief that Johnson’s prolonged exposure to Roundup was a direct factor in his development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In March of 2019, Monsanto was handed another courtroom blow after a jury awarded Edwin Hardeman $80 million in damages. Hardeman was a longtime user of Roundup on his property and was also diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of exposure.
The most shocking courtroom result so far was that in the case of Alva and Alberta Pilliod. The couple were regular users of Roundup on their property since the 1970s. Both Alva and Albert were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and were awarded a startling $2 billion in combined damages.
Monsanto is facing many pending lawsuits and their legal battles are far from finished. Cases are scheduled to start in the coming months. One case involves a 12-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup.
Contact a Roundup Cancer Lawyer Today
If you were routinely exposed to Roundup, as many others were due to their job or proximity to areas where Roundup was used, you could have been exposed to the carcinogen, glyphosate. If you developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result of Roundup exposure, our attorneys want to hear from you. Call the compassionate team of The Driscoll Firm, P.C. at 800-900-7704 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your rights today.
You are not alone, and you have legal options available to you. Our team will provide a confidential consultation to let you know what kind of compensation you might be owed, and how we can help you secure it. Call us today.