Monsanto: Overview

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"What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain"[1].


Industry Areas

GM crops, agro-chemicals, Bovine Growth Hormone.


Market share/importance

Monsanto have a vision of a future with ‘Abundant Food and a Healthy Environment’ [2], however, their vision of how to achieve this may differ from yours. Monsanto is one of the most powerful companies attempting to shape the future of agriculture and take control of the global food chain. They are by far the biggest seller of GM crops in the world. Their products account for 80% of the total area of global farmland planted with GM crops in 1999. Monsanto are also the second largest seed company in the world with global sales of $1,700 million [3]. RoundUp, manufactured by Monsanto, is the world’s biggest selling herbicide.

History [4]

Monsanto has been by far the most prominent and controversial corporation promoting the introduction of biotechnology in agriculture. The company has a long and messy history of manufacturing hazardous chemicals. Their products have included chemical warfare agents (Agent Orange), industrial materials (PCBs), food additives (NutraSweet), agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto was the first major agrochemical and pharmaceutical company to pursue the ‘life sciences’ concept. During the 1990s it shed many of its chemical concerns and embarked on a spending spree investing heavily in biotechnology research, and spending nearly $10 billion world wide acquiring seed companies. In the late 1990s Monsanto was the first company to widely market first generation GM crops. This was accompanied by an aggressive public relations campaign aimed at persuading a concerned public that GM crops were a safe and desirable innovation. The campaign backfired, resulting in Monsanto becoming the primary focus of a rapidly growing global resistance to GM crops (to a large extent drawing attention away from the likes of Aventis (Agrevo) and Syngenta (Novartis/AstraZeneca) who were quietly getting on with introducing similar products). By late 1998 a combination of Monsanto’s status as an international bogeyman, and a need for returns on their extensive investments resulted in a loss in market confidence in the company and their share price plummeted. Stability was regained through a merger with pharmaceutical giant Pharmacia/UpJohn in April 2000. As a result of this merger the combined company, known as Pharmacia, has taken over Monsanto’s pharmaceutical wing Searle. The infamous agrochemical and biotechnology division, still known as Monsanto, has been spun off as a nominally separate company with Pharmacia retaining an 85% share.



[1] Fraley R. (co-president of Monsanto's agricultural sector) 1996, in the Farm Journal. Quoted in: Flint J. (1998) Agricultural industry giants moving towards genetic monopolism. Telepolis, Heise Online,


[3] all 1999 figures sourced from RAFI reports ‘Speed Bump or Blow Out For GM Seed’ and ‘Seed Industry Giants: Who Owns Whom?’ available online at

[4] The information in the above section is predominantly sourced from ‘Feeding the Hungry Transnationals’ and the ASEED Europe Monsanto Briefing available online at