Monsanto: From Agrochemicals to Global Food Control - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1757 Words
Date:  2023-03-13
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Introduction

Founded in 1901, the Monsanto Company grew to become one of the most influential companies not only in the United States but also internationally. Headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the company specialized in agrochemicals and agricultural biotechnology. Owing to the importance of the sector in which the company operated, its influence dramatically rose over the years. At some point, it was thought that there was a possibility of Monsanto virtually controlling all the food consumed in the country. Some of its products, such as Roundup, became a source of controversy that plagued the company for years. In the 1970s, the company became the primary producer of genetically modified crops. Owing to these developments, the huge role that the company played in enhancing food production cannot be denied. However, the company has, for years, faced the accusations of victimizing farmers. As a result, the company had to deal with several legal battles regarding the same. Monsanto was also accused of receiving unfair protection from the Federal government. Moreover, the company developed tactics to protect its interests over the years. These are the reasons why the company was expected to take full control of the food eaten in the country in the future. However, since Bayer acquired the company in 2016, this might not be realized (Rabiere and Mavoori). This paper seeks to discuss the role that Monsanto played in food production, the controversies that were associated with it, the protective laws and tactics that kept it at the top for so long, as well as its role in the world following the acquisition.

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Monsanto's Role in Food Production

Since its inception in the 20th century, Monsanto has, for a long time, had a hand in the production and supply of food in the country. Whether this was a good or a bad thing will be discussed later in this paper. In the latter years, when the company narrowed down to a few crops, it was estimated that 93% and 80% of soybeans and corn in the U.S., respectively, were grown using Monsanto-patented seeds. It is also estimated that more than 280 million acres worldwide used Monsanto products. 40% of crop acreage in the U.S. was also estimated to be under Monsanto products. The critical position that the Monsanto, as well as a few other biotechnology companies, held allowed them to restrict the options available to the farmers. This led to the development of a concept that anti-GMO activists call seed slavery (Genetic Literacy Project). By doing this, they took over control of the national and global food supply.

Mergers and acquisitions witnessed recently among the biggest biotechnology firms have led to more fears that their control over food production is bound to rise. For instance, through the acquisition of its competitors, Monsanto got huge control over the seeds planted in the country. This is how the company controlled food production in the country. Besides, to gain more control, Monsanto created an entire food production system that entirely depends on the company's products. For example, Monsanto soybeans are modified to withstand Roundup. Farmers using the seeds, therefore, are forced to buy the herbicide as well. Through such strategies, the company played an increasingly huge role in determining the food that the world eats (Gillam).

The Legal Battles Between Monsanto and Farmers

Monsanto controlled farmers to an extent of victimizing them. For instance, the licensing agreement found on the company's seed bags gave Monsanto the authority to sue farmers who failed to follow the company's procedures. The company was also allowed to investigate the farmers' records and fields anytime. Over the years, the company has not shied off from suing small farmers in attempts to prevent farmers from replanting crops they had produced using the company's seeds. A 2013 report revealed that hundreds of small farmers had been sued in the U.S. (Harris). By the time the report was made, the company had won over $23 million from the lawsuits (Harris). More recently, the company won a $7.7 billion lawsuit against farmers in Brazil for replanting Monsanto's patented soybeans (Peschard). Though farmers around the world have tried to stand up against the excessive control over their planting traditions, the company has always prevailed (Salvian).

Other Controversies

As mentioned earlier, Monsanto was the pioneer of genetically engineered foods. While the company argued that the new technology would enhance global food security by making crops more resistant to droughts and diseases, preliminary studies have associated GMOs with various food allergies, increased toxicity, decreased nutritional value, and antibiotic resistance (Wilcox). Contrary to the arguments of those supporting GMOs, it has been established that they do not lead to a reduction in poverty. Instead, they enhance the uptake of farm chemicals, which hurts the environment and also increases corporate control over the country's food system.

Other than the GMOs, various herbicides and pesticides produced by the company have been a cause of concern among consumers, as the popularity of organic foods rises (Shemkus 5).

Roundup, which contains glysophate, has been controversial not only in the United States but also in other countries around the world. It has been linked with cancer though scientific studies on the issue are contradicting. The company has faced several lawsuits regarding this claim. Different countries around the world have also banned the use of Roundup within their jurisdictions. The company was also involved in the production of Agent Orange though it denied responsibility for the use of the chemical during the Vietnam War (Phys Org). The use of pesticides has been linked to various health and environmental hazards. For instance, a possible insect apocalypse and the rise of drug-resistant fungus such as Candida auris have been attributed to the continued use of pesticides (Civil Eats 3).

Political Protection

Undeniably, there was a political aspect in the company's long-running success. For a long time, it has been argued that various Federal laws protected Monsanto. The company also used to spend millions of dollars every year in lobbying. The company's board members also sat in influential government institutions such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and presidential advisory committees. With control in such high places, the company was able to control policies to favor its position. For instance, in 2013, President Obama signed in to law what is popularly known as the Monsanto Protection Act. The law put the companies above Federal courts in matters regarding the sale, planting, harvesting, and distribution of genetically modified seed. This was a testament to the company's strong political muscle (Vidal).

Tactics Used by Monsanto to Protect Its Interests

The above discussion has shown that Monsanto has been controversial for years. However, through the use of various tactics, the company has managed to protect its interests, even when its practices are seen as unethical. Other than the political tactics mentioned above, it has been established that Monsanto systematically and deliberately attacked any science that questioned the safety of its products as well as the scientists championing such studies (ABC). Through this tactic, Roundup, the company's herbicide that was lauded as revolutionary, has managed to survive criticism and attacks from various quarters. In the early days, aggressive advertising that presented the chemical as safe and biodegradable helped endear it among the farmers. Resultantly, Roundup is one of the used herbicides globally.

The Effect of Acquisition on Monsanto's Control over What People Eat

It has been argued that the acquisition was a way of overcoming reputational hurdles faced by Monsanto. The acquisition also followed other major mergers in the agriculture supply industry, such as in DowDuPont and the Syngenta-ChemChina mergers. The acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer at $66 billion was aimed at boosting research and innovation to double the global food supply by 2050 (Lianos). By combining the strengths possessed by the two companies, their control over the farmers and the entire food production process is bound to rise. Therefore, though Monsanto might be out of the picture, the big companies still control different aspects of food production. Resultantly, the probability of these companies controlling the food eaten in the future is higher today than it was when Bartlett and Steele made this claim.

Conclusion

Since its inception in the early 20th century, Monsanto played a critical role in food production. Over time, the company positioned itself as a leader in critical sectors of the agriculture industry, a factor contributed to its dominance both nationally and internationally. However, the company has been plagued by various controversies. For instance, Roundup, one of its most prominent herbicide, has been linked with cancer. Moreover, the company has been accused of victimizing farmers, as evidenced by the several lawsuits against small farmers. Political protection, such as through favorable Federal laws played a role in the dominance of the company. Monsanto also used various tactics such as watering down any scientific evidence against their products, as a way of protecting its interests. Though the acquisition of the company by Bayer might have looked like an end of an era, the farmers are still at the mercy of the big companies, and the food production chain is still under their control.

Works Cited

"The Monsanto Papers." 8 October 2018. ABC. 19 November 2019. <https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/the-monsanto-papers/10352384>.

Civil Eats. "A Decade of Pesticides, GMOs, and Alternatives to Chemical-Intensive Farming." 10 April 2019. Civil Eats. 10 December 2019.

Genetic Literacy Project. "Do Monsanto and Big Ag control crop research and world food supply?" 2018. Genetic Literacy Project. 10 December 2019. <https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/do-monsanto-and-big-ag-control-crop-research-and-world-food-supply/>.

Gillam, Carey. "Food: Is Monsanto the answer or the problem?" 11 November 2009. Reuters. 10 December 2019. <https://www.reuters.com/article/us-food-monsanto/food-is-monsanto-the-answer-or-the-problem-idUSTRE5AA05520091111>.

Harris, Paul. "Monsanto sued small famers to protect seed patents, report says." 12 Febbruary 2013. The Gurdian. 10 December 2019. <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/12/monsanto-sues-farmers-seed-patents>.

Lianos, Ionnis. "Agro-Chemical Mega-Mergers and Innovation-Between Competition Law, Regulation and IP Rights." The Interplay between Competition Law and IP: An International Perspective (2018). <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3265685>.

Peschard, Karine Eliane. "Monsanto wins $7.7b lawsuit in Brazil - but farmers' fight to stop its 'amoral' royalty system will continue." 31 October 2019. The Conversation. 10 December 2019. <https://theconversation.com/monsanto-wins-7-7b-lawsuit-in-brazil-but-farmers-fight-to-stop-its-amoral-royalty-system-will-continue-125471>.

Phys Org. "Monsanto known for controversial chemicals." 9 July 2018. Phys Org. 10 December 2019. <https://phys.org/news/2018-07-monsanto-controversial-chemicals.html>.

Rabiere, Philippe and Hareesh Mavoori. "The Bayer-Monsanto fusion: countering brand tarnishment and rebuilding reputation." Journal of Business Strategy (2019). <https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JBS-10-2018-0185>.

Salvian, Hailey. "Percy Schmeiser looks back 20 years at fight against Monsanto." 3 aUGUST 2018. CBC. 10 December 2019. <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/percy-schmeiser-monsanto-legal-battle-1.4771673>.

Shemkus, Sarah. "The Org...

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Monsanto: From Agrochemicals to Global Food Control - Essay Sample. (2023, Mar 13). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/monsanto-from-agrochemicals-to-global-food-control-essay-sample

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