The Chilling History of Monsanto’s Rise to Power

Story at-a-glance

  • Monsanto’s products include saccharin, aspartame, Agent Orange, PCBs, DDT, Roundup (the active ingredient of which is glyphosate) and herbicide-resistant genetically engineered seeds
  • Since 1974, 1.8 million tons of glyphosate have been applied to US fields; two-thirds of that volume has been sprayed in the last 10 years; 9.4 million tons of glyphosate was used worldwide
  • Tests show 93 percent of Americans have detectable levels of glyphosate in their urine, at an average level of 3.096 parts per billion (ppb)


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

In the featured video, journalist Abby Martin discusses Monsanto's rise to power and how the company has managed to saturate the global environment with its toxic chemicals, largely through immoral means.

In May, the University of San Francisco (USF) revealed the results from a testing project that began in 2015. The tests, commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), found that 93 percent of Americans have detectable levels of the chemical glyphosate in their urine.1

Glyphosate is the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world, and it's an active ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup. As noted by the Detox Project:2

"Glyphosate, labeled a 'probable human carcinogen' by the World Health Organization's cancer agency IARC in 2015, has now been revealed to be ubiquitous in the first ever comprehensive and validated LC/MS/MS testing project to be carried out across America ...

Glyphosate was found ... at an average level of 3.096 parts per billion (ppb). Children had the highest levels with an average of 3.586 ppb. The regions with the highest levels were the West and the Midwest with an average of 3.053 ppb and 3.050 ppb respectively."

Glyphosate Contamination Is 'Everywhere'

Glyphosate has been found in a wide array of samples, including blood, urine, breast milk, drinking water and more. Results from a German study3 published in 2012 showed that even people who have no direct contact with agriculture have significant concentrations of glyphosate in their urine.

In fact, every single urine sample collected from city dwellers around Berlin tested positive for glyphosate, with values ranging from 0.5 to 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), which is between five and 20 times the permissible upper limit for glyphosate in German drinking water, set at 0.1 ng/ml.

Why do most people have traces of this probable carcinogen in their bodies, regardless of where they live?

The answer is because glyphosate is sprayed on virtually all food crops around the world. In fact, glyphosate is the most heavily used weed killer in history. Roundup is the most commonly used formulation but glyphosate can also be found in other pesticide formulas.4

Since 1974, 1.8 million tons of glyphosate have been applied to US fields; two-thirds of that volume has been sprayed in the last 10 years.5

In 2014 alone, farmers sprayed enough glyphosate to apply 0.8 pounds of the chemical to every acre of cultivated cropland in the U.S. Between 1974 and 2014, 9.4 million tons of glyphosate was used worldwide.

Glyphosate Threatens Ecological, Animal and Human Health

As noted by The Center for Biological Diversity, the heavy use of glyphosate — particularly on genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops, which are also developed by Monsanto — has been implicated in the dramatic decline in Monarch butterflies.

Evidence6,7 has also linked glyphosate to Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and honeybee starvation,8 along with toxicity to soil, woodland plants, amphibians, fish, aquatic environments and mammals,9 causing reproductive problems and endocrine disruption.

According to other recent research, glyphosate may also promote antibiotic resistance by disrupting gut bacteria and dysregulating manganese utilization (manganese accumulation in bile acids allows Salmonella to gain a stronghold there).

Monsanto, a 'Sinister Threat to the Planet's Ecosystem'

Considering the many concerns raised by scientists about the toxic nature of glyphosate and formulations containing glyphosate (which typically turn out to be even more toxic than glyphosate in isolation), you'd think the U.S. government, if not Monsanto itself, would take action to protect human health.

Instead, they've done the converse. In fact, it could easily be said that without the support by government officials and regulators, Monsanto would never have been able to achieve its current power status. As noted by Martin:

"Monsanto has already proven it cannot be trusted to care about anything but money, especially when lives are at stake.

A quick look at the corporation's scandalous history reveals it is a sinister threat to the planet's ecosystem, economies around the world, as well as the livelihoods and very lives of millions of people."

The company's history goes all the way back to 1901, when John Francis Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri. His father-in-law, a sugar merchant named Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto provided funding.

"During the sugar shortage in World War I, the Monsanto Company convinced America the solution was buying its fake sweetener, saccharin," Martin says. The company was also enlisted to help with American bomb making.

"From its inception, the corporation employed the shadiest of tactics to avert laws that infringed on profits," Martin says. To circumvent the regulations and high taxes in St. Louis, Monsanto moved its business 4 miles south, establishing its own town, Monsanto, Illinois.

Not surprisingly, regulations were lax in the town of Monsanto, and corporate taxes were low. As a result, the town attracted a number of other factories. According to Martin, "the town's head even admitted to The Wall Street Journal that it was created to be a sewer. Today, it's a toxic wasteland."

A History of Concealment

Monsanto became a leading producer of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), producing nearly all PCBs sold in the U.S., an estimated 1.25 billion pounds. As noted by Martin, the toxicity of PCBs were known, and concealed, by Monsanto executives.

Today, lingering PCB pollution has led to at least 700 lawsuits on behalf of people who claim their exposure to PCBs caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma.10

In 2002, Monsanto was found guilty of decades of "outrageous acts of pollution" in the town of Anniston, Alabama, where it dumped PCBs into the local river and secretly buried the toxic chemical in a landfill.11

The charge of "outrageous" in Alabama law requires the act to be "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."

Indeed, internal documents revealed Monsanto had full knowledge of the severity of the pollution problem it caused for at least three decades, and decided to cover it up. As reported by The Washington Post at the time:12

"In 1966 ... Monsanto managers discovered that fish dunked in a local creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood and shedding skin as if dropped into boiling water. In 1969, they found a fish in another creek with 7,500 times the legal PCB level. But they never told their neighbors, and concluded that 'there is little object in going to expensive extremes in limiting discharges' ...

[D]ocuments — many featuring warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy" — suggested a company-wide preoccupation with maintaining its $22-million-a-year PCB monopoly regardless of health or environmental risks. 'We can't afford to lose one dollar of business,' one internal memo declared.

A committee the company formed to address controversies about PCBs had only two formal objectives: 'Permit continued sales and profits' and 'protect image of ... the corporation.'"

US Government Shields Monsanto From PCB Fallout

Seattle recently filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for PCB pollution. They want Monsanto to pay to help clean up pollution it caused in the Duwamish River and also wants to hold the company responsible for making the river's fish too contaminated to eat.13

San Diego has also sued Monsanto for polluting the Coronado Bay with PCBs,14 while San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley, California and Spokane, Washington have filed lawsuits against Monsanto for continuing to produce and promote PCBs despite knowing their hazards.15

However, it remains to be seen whether these lawsuits will ever move forward. Congress is in the process of updating the Toxic Substances Control Act and the House of Representatives has conveniently slipped in a clause that many are calling a "gift" to Monsanto, as the paragraph shields the company from legal liability related to PCBs.

Monsanto's War Contributions: Atomic Bomb, DDT and Agent Orange

Most people are unaware that in 1943, Monsanto joined the U.S. war machine. Monsanto head Charles Allen Thomas received an invitation from the Pentagon, asking him to join the Manhattan Project. Monsanto's laboratories subsequently produced polonium for the atomic bomb, which ended up being dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

According to Martin, Monsanto was also responsible for irradiating American citizens on U.S. soil, supplying radioactive iron for human experiments. Between 1945 and 1947, Vanderbilt University researchers fed radioactive iron to nearly 900 pregnant women to test the effects of radiation on the human body and fetus.

Monsanto also produced one of the world's first pesticides, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, better known as DDT. Advertised not only as harmless but actually good for human health, DDT was widely used without any safety precautions whatsoever to kill off disease-carrying mosquitoes.

For three decades, marketing campaigns assured DDT's safety and benefits, despite the growing number of scientific investigations suggestion otherwise. Today the toxicity of DDT is well-recognized, but it was public pressure that forced the U.S. government to finally ban the chemical in 1972.

Monsanto's contributions to the U.S. war machine continued during the Vietnam War, when the company became a leading producer of Agent Orange, a defoliant that had severe health consequences for those exposed to it, thanks to the presence of dioxin. According to Martin, Monsanto and the U.S. government were aware of the toxic nature of dioxin, but hid it from the public.

Still to this day, Vietnamese people, American veterans and chemical plant workers suffer the consequences of exposure. In the town of Nitro, where Monsanto dumped dioxin for years without informing the residents, people also suffer elevated rates of cancer and other health problems. Byproducts from the manufacture of Agent Orange were also dumped into New Jersey's Passaic River for decades, turning it into one of the most contaminated waterways in the U.S.

Monsanto Tries to Rebrand Itself

In 1977, Monsanto hired the PR firm Bain & Company to help them reshape public opinion about the company, which had grown increasingly negative. Bain employee Mitt Romney was selected for the task, and Romney suggested Monsanto rebrand itself as a life affirming company by shifting its focus toward food and agriculture. Under Romney's guidance, Monsanto slogans such as "Feeding the World" were born. 

But this corporate facelift was as shallow as they come, because Monsanto didn't stop making toxic chemicals. Nor did it change the way it does business. For example, Monsanto acquired Searle, the maker of aspartame, a toxic sweetener now found in more than 6,000 food products and beverages. Martin describes the history behind this controversial sweetener, and the political connections that ultimately allowed aspartame to flood the market, despite studies suggesting it may be harmful to human health.

Monsanto also contributed recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to the U.S. food system. This synthetic hormone increases milk production in cows. However, research suggests that drinking milk from rBGH-treated cows may also increase your risk of cancer.

Monsanto's entry into agriculture may have been the most destructive of all. By producing genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant seeds and the pesticides that go with them, Monsanto has been able to spread its toxic influence even further than ever before. Remarkably, the company tries to pass itself off as a "sustainable agricultural company," despite the fact that its chemical-based methods are anything but.

Monsanto Has Long History of Lobbying Against Warning Labels

Since its inception, Monsanto has repeatedly fought attempts to warn people about the potential health risks associated with their products. Repeatedly, the company has insisted their products are completely safe, even when they knew it wasn't true. Monsanto has vehemently fought:

  • rBGH-free labeling
  • Food labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Glyphosate toxicity warning labels

Monsanto's history really speaks for itself, and its current behavior tells us nothing has changed since the days of DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange. The only thing that has changed is that now the company is able to ensure that virtually every person on the planet is affected by its toxic chemicals, via food.


By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.