Monsanto linked with decades of controversy
By Agence France-Presse
US agricultural giant Monsanto, merging this week with German pharmaceuticals and chemicals company Bayer, has long been targeted by environmentalists and faced multiple lawsuits.
Bayer said on Monday it would ditch the Monsanto name after the merger. Decades of protests against its activities have badly damaged the company’s brand.
Here is a recap of the main controversies linked to Monsanto:
– Glyphosate –
Since its introduction by Monsanto in 1974 in the United States as Roundup, the use of glyphosate has soared across the globe.
It is sprayed on food crops but also used widely outside of agriculture, such as on public lawns and in forestry.
Today glyphosate is produced by many companies and is currently the most used herbicide around the world.
A 2015 study by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded it was “probably carcinogenic”.
Despite the opposition of many member states, the European Union renewed the authorisation of its use for five years in November 2017.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron promised the herbicide would be banned in the country in three years. In Italy and the Netherlands its use has been restricted.
Sri Lanka banned the import and use of glyphosate in June 2015 following reports it was responsible for a sharp increase in kidney disease.
However, the scientific community notes there is no reliable evidence of this link and the ban in Sri Lanka has since been partially lifted.
– Lasso –
Lasso is another controversial herbicide, made of a chemical substance called alachlore and put on the market by Monsanto.
In France in 2015 a court upheld a ruling in which Monsanto was found guilty of poisoning a farmer who said he suffered neurological damage after inhaling Lasso in 2004.
Lasso, which contains high levels of highly toxic monochlorobenzene, was withdrawn from sale in Canada in 1985 and was banned in Belgium and Britain in 1992.
It was withdrawn from the French market in 2007 after its renewal was not authorised by the European Union.
– Genetically modified crops –
In the mid-1990s, Monsanto began to market genetically modified crops (GMCs), designed to be tolerant of its herbicide Roundup.
It planned to spray glyphosate on fields on a massive scale so as to eliminate weeds and only keep crops such as corn, soya, cotton, canola and others that are resistant to the herbicide.
The authorisation of genetically modified crops cultivation in the European Union has provoked protest and court battles over the past two decades.
At the end of the 1990s France suspended the trials of Monsanto’s GM corn.
When the EU allowed member states to decide for themselves whether or not to cultivate GM crops, France banned the cultivation of GM corn known as MON 810. A law was passed to this effect in 2014.
In the United States farmers have seen numerous attempts to dispute the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM crops dismissed by the courts. (AFP)