Monsanto was one of four groups to introduce genes into plants in 1983, and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops in 1987. It was one of the top 10 US chemical companies until it divested most of its chemical businesses between 1997 and 2002, through a process of mergers and spin-offs that focused the company on biotechnology. Monsanto was one of the first companies to apply the biotechnology industry business model to agriculture, using techniques developed by biotech drug companies.:2–6 In this business model, companies recoup R&D expenses by exploiting biological patents.
Monsanto expanded to Europe in 1919 in a partnership with Graesser's Chemical Works at Cefn Mawr, Wales. The venture produced vanillin, aspirin and its raw ingredient salicylic acid, and later rubber processing chemicals. In the 1920s, Monsanto expanded into basic industrial chemicals such as sulfuric acid and PCBs. Queeny's son Edgar Monsanto Queeny took over the company in 1928. In 1926 the company founded and incorporated a town called Monsanto in Illinois (now known as Sauget). It was formed to provide minimal regulation and low taxes for Monsanto plants at a time when local jurisdictions had most of the responsibility for environmental rules. It was renamed in honor of Leo Sauget, its first village president.
Monsanto began manufacturing DDT in 1944, along with some 15 other companies. This insecticide was critical to the fight against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Due to DDT's toxicity, it was banned in the United States in 1972. In 1977, Monsanto stopped producing PCBs; Congress banned PCB production two years later.
Monsanto scientists were among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, publishing their results in 1983. Five years later the company conducted the first field tests of genetically modified crops. Increasing involvement in agricultural biotechnology dates from the installment of Richard Mahoney as Monsanto's CEO in 1983. This involvement increased under the leadership of Robert Shapiro, appointed CEO in 1995, leading ultimately to the disposition of product lines unrelated to agriculture.
In 1996, Monsanto purchased Agracetus, the biotechnology company that had generated the first transgenic cotton, soybeans, peanuts and other crops, and from which Monsanto had been licensing technology since 1991.
Monsanto first entered the maize seed business when it purchased 40% of Dekalb in 1996; it purchased the remainder of the corporation in 1998. In 1997, the company first published an annual report citing Monsanto's Law, a biotechnological take on Moore's Law, indicating its future directions and exponential growth in the use of biotechnology. In 1998, Monsanto purchased Cargill's international seed business, which gave it access to sales and distribution facilities in 51 countries. In 2005, it finalized the purchase of Seminis Inc, a leading global vegetable and fruit seed company, for $1.4 billion. This made it the world's largest conventional seed company.
In 1999 Monsanto sold off NutraSweet Co. In December of the same year, Monsanto agreed to merge with Pharmacia & Upjohn, in a deal valuing the transaction at $27 billion. The agricultural division became a wholly owned subsidiary of the "new" Pharmacia; Monsanto's medical research division, which included products such as Celebrex.
"Pre-Pharmacia" Monsanto overview
Click on or tap to reveal an illustration of the company's mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and historical predecessors:
In 2000: Pharmacia spun off its agro-biotech subsidiary into a new company, the "new Monsanto", focused on four key agricultural crops—soybeans, maize, wheat and cotton. Monsanto agreed to indemnify Pharmacia against potential liabilities from judgments against Solutia. As a result, the new Monsanto continued to be a party to numerous lawsuits over the prior Monsanto. Pharmacia was bought by Pfizer in 2003.)
In 2005 Monsanto acquired Emergent Genetics and its Stoneville and NexGen cotton brands. Emergent was the third largest U.S. cotton seed company, with about 12% of the U.S. market. Monsanto's goal was to obtain "a strategic cotton germplasm and traits platform."
Also in 2005, Monsanto purchased Seminis, the California-based world leader in vegetable seed production, for $1.4 billion. Seminis developed new vegetable varieties using advanced cross-pollination methods. Monsanto indicated that Seminis would continue with non-GM development, while not ruling out GM in the longer term.
In June 2007, Monsanto purchased Delta and Pine Land Company, a major cotton seed breeder, for $1.5 billion. As a condition for approval from the Department of Justice, Monsanto was obligated to divest its Stoneville cotton business, which it sold to Bayer, and to divest its NexGen cotton business, which it sold to
Americot. Monsanto also exited the pig-breeding business by selling Monsanto Choice Genetics to
Newsham Genetics LC in November, divesting itself of "any and all swine-related patents, patent applications, and all other intellectual property".:108 In 2007, Monsanto and BASF announced a long-term agreement to cooperate in the research, development, and marketing of new plant biotechnology products.
In 2008, Monsanto purchased Dutch seed company De Ruiter Seeds for €546 million, and sold its POSILAC bovine somatotropin brand and related business to Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly & Co, in August for $300 million plus "additional contingent consideration".
2010 to 2017: Further growth, Syngenta
In 2012 Monsanto purchased for $210 million
Precision Planting Inc., a company that produced computer hardware and software designed to enable farmers to increase yield and productivity through more precise planting.
In 2013 Monsanto purchased San Francisco-based Climate Corp for $930 million. Climate Corp. makes local weather forecasts for farmers based on data modelling and historical data; if the forecasts were wrong, the farmer was compensated.
In 2015 Monsanto tried to acquire Swiss agro-biotechnology rival, Syngenta, for US$46.5 billion, but failed. In 2015 Monsanto was the world's biggest supplier of seeds, controlling 26% of the global seed market (Du Pont was second with 21%). Monsanto is the only manufacturer of white phosphorus for military use in the US.
"Post-Pharmacia" Monsanto overview
Chart of Monsanto's mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and historical predecessors:
In September 2016, Monsanto agreed to be acquired by Bayer for US$66 billion. In an effort to receive regulatory clearance for the deal, Bayer announced the sale of significant portions of its current agriculture businesses, including its seed and herbicide businesses, to BASF.
The deal was approved by the European Union on March 21, 2018, and approved in the United States on May 29, 2018. The sale closed on June 7, 2018; Bayer announced its intent to discontinue the Monsanto name, with the combined company operating solely under the Bayer brand.