Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto
When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market. See if you can spot the pattern…
#1 – Saccharin
Did you know Monsanto got started because of an artificial sweetener? John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri with the goal of producing saccharin for Coca-Cola. In stark contrast to its sweet beginnings, studies performed during the early 1970s,* including a study by the National Cancer Institute in 1980, showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats and mice.
After mounting pressure from consumers, the Calorie Control Council, and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, along with additional studies (several conducted by the sugar and sweetener industry) that reported flaws in the 1970s studies, saccharin was delisted from the NIH’s Carcinogen List. A variety of letters from scientists advised against delisting; the official document includes the following wording to this day: “although it is impossible to absolutely conclude that it poses no threat to human health, sodium saccharin is not reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under conditions of general usage as an artificial sweetener.” (*Read the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s History of Saccharin here.)
#2 – PCBs
During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Fifty years later, toxicity tests began reporting serious health effects from PCBs in laboratory rats exposed to the chemical.
After another decade of studies, the truth could no longer be contained: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. Additional peer-reviewed health studies showed a causal link between exposure to PCBs and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a frequently fatal form of cancer.
In 1979, the United States Congress recognized PCBs as a significant environmental toxin and persistent organic pollutant, and banned its production in the U.S. By then Monsanto already had manufacturing plants abroad, so they weren’t entirely stopped until the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.
And that’s when Monsanto’s duplicity was uncovered: internal company memos from 1956 surfaced, proving that Monsanto had known about dangers of PCBs from early on.
In 2003, Monsanto paid out over $600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, who experienced severe health problems including liver disease, neurological disorders and cancer after being exposed to PCBs — more than double the payoff that was awarded in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”
And yet the damage persists: nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the U.S., they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women, as reported in a 2011 study by the University of California San Francisco.
#3 – Polystyrene
In 1941, Monsanto began focusing on plastics and synthetic polystyrene, which is still widely used in food packaging and ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicals whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.
#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons
Shortly after acquiring Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto turned this division into their Central Research Department. Between 1943 to 1945, this department coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project—including plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project’s Dayton Project, techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons (an era of U.S. history that sadly included the deadliest industrial accident).
#5 – DDT
In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT’s toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the U.S.
Read the full story here.