How Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer Became King

Farm combine harvesting Roundup Ready wheat

Monsanto has gone to great lengths to produce and advertise Roundup, its glyphosate-based herbicide, since it was first launched 1974. By design, Roundup’s active ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills most of the plants it is sprayed on.

Today, Roundup is the most sprayed herbicide in the entire world. How did they come to dominate the market? There were two major players: Monsanto’s relentless advertising and the invention of Roundup Ready seeds.

Monsanto never stopped advertising Roundup as “safe”

In its prints ads and television commercials, Monsanto told the public how safe Roundup was for the environment, people, and everything living thing on the planet. In turn, this message made people feel safe using Roundup around their gardens, on their food, and in their yards.

By the 1990s, Roundup had become a household name and made Monsanto billions of dollars. There is no doubt that Monsanto’s initial success was thanks to its relentless advertising.

However, Monsanto really made Roundup king of the herbicides in the late 1990s when it launched Roundup Ready seeds.

Roundup Ready seeds: The key to Monsanto’s success

In the mid-1990s, Monsanto’s patent for glyphosate was close to expiring.
To keep their sales up, Monsanto developed genetically modified seeds (known as Roundup Ready seeds) that were resistant to the glyphosate herbicide. This made life easier for farmers because they could now spray the herbicide throughout the season without fear of destroying their crops.

As a result, Monsanto sales for both Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds boomed. By 2005, 87 percent of all soybean fields in the United States were planted with Roundup Ready seeds. Simply put, Roundup and Roundup Ready crops were a golden goose for Monsanto.

Roundup’s sales now on the decline

Despite the huge profits, there was trouble on the horizon for Monsanto. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, organized a group of experts to review available scientific evidence to determine whether glyphosate could cause cancer.

In July of that year, they released their findings stating that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In particular, the IARC concluded that the cancers most associated with glyphosate products are non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). NHL is a group of blood cancers that start in white blood cells known as lymphocytes. For most NHL patients, the prognosis is not good.

In 2019, the first group of Roundup-related NHL cases have gone to jury trials across the county. Overwhelmingly, those jurors have found that Roundup can and did cause NHL in those plaintiffs.

German-based Bayer, one of the largest pharmaceutical and chemical companies in the world, bought Monsanto in 2018. Since the Roundup verdicts, Bayer has continued Monsanto’s fight to discredit the science supporting the connection between glyphosate products and NHL.

If you’re interested in the topic or know someone you believe may have affected by Roundup or other herbicidal products, do not hesitate to call us with any questions.

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