Glyphosate Herbicide History
- 1960 – Monsanto formed agricultural division.
- 1970 – Glyphosate discovered by Monsanto chemist, John E. Franz. Franz, a young chemist who had recently been transferred to Monsanto’s agricultural division, began to work with another Monsanto scientist, Dr. Phil Hamm. Hamm, then the head of Monsanto’s herbicide screening program, was excited about two compounds recently submitted by Monsanto scientists from another wing of the company. Initially studied as water softeners, Hamm thought the compounds might be useful as herbicides. He eventually asked Franz to study the possibility. During his studies, Franz theorized that a beneficial compound might be produced during the plant’s metabolic process—a compound that he might then be able to synthesize. The third compound Franz synthesized was called glyphosate, and it would go on to change the world of farming for many years to come.
- 1974 – Monsanto received patent to bring Roundup [glyphosate herbicide] to market.
- 1976 – Monsanto commercialized Roundup in the U.S. and Canada.
- Late 1970’s – Most farmers felt they had no alternative to using herbicides. Most herbicides during this time were pre-emergent, which means the herbicide forms a chemical barrier on the surface of a field that killed weeds as they sprouted and came into contact with the barrier. Pre-emergent herbicides needed to be spread consistently across fields and stay active for a long period of time to ensure effectiveness after the spring rainy season. These two issues were environmentally problematic, as pre-emptive herbicides could wash into streams and ground water, wreaking havoc on fish and wildlife. With this as a backdrop, glyphosate herbicide was seen as an “environmentally friendly alternative” to other herbicides and sales of Monsanto Roundup began to boom.
- 1984 – Monsanto pays millions to Vietnam War veterans affected by exposure to Agent Orange. Monsanto developed and supplied the military with the defoliant chemical in the 1960s.
- 1985 – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified glyphosate as a Group C chemical. The EPA’s determination meant that glyphosate was possibly carcinogenic to humans. This designation was based on early animal studies, which found “…an increase in interstitial cell tumors of the testes of male rats,” as well as “pancreatic tumors” in high-dose female rats.
- 1991 – After a heavy handed lobbying campaign by Monsanto, the EPA changes classification of glyphosate to Group E. Six years after finding a possible cancer link, the EPA changed the classification for glyphosate, finding “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.” This change in glyphosate’s classification happened shortly before Monsanto launched its Roundup Ready GMO seeds, which would become a $6 billion a year product. These genetically modified seeds are resistant to glyphosate herbicide.
- 1991 – Monsanto hired Craven Laboratories to perform Roundup studies. Months later, the owner of Craven Laboratories and three employees were indicted for fraudulent laboratory practices.
- 1996 – New York Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for falsely advertising glyphosate herbicide as being “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic.” The lawsuit ends with an agreement, whereby Monsanto agreed to stop advertising Roundup as safe. The problem was the agreement was only bound to the state of New York. Elsewhere, Monsanto could continue its misinformation campaign for Roundup.
- 1997 – A Greenpeace report found glyphosate to be one of the most commonly reported causes of pesticide related illness among agricultural workers. (Source: https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/monsanto/roundup.php)
- 2001 – Special Report stated glyphosate may cause cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nerve and respiratory damage.
- 2011 – Glyphosate herbicide used on a total of 210 million acres of U.S. farmland.
- 2013 – Monsanto asked for and received EPA approval for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate.
- 2015 – Cancer research arm of the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The study was based on the viewpoint of 17 experts from 11 countries. Researchers also found “limited evidence” that glyphosate is carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In response to the WHO study, a number of countries banned the private and/or commercial sale of glyphosate herbicide, including Roundup.