Over its 115-year history, Monsanto has continually reinvented itself through technology and business mergers, marketing products that have both transformed agriculture and fueled heated controversy. Here’s a brief glimpse at how the St. Louis-area company grew from modest beginnings into a global biotech giant.
Monsanto is founded as an independent venture of John Queeny, an employee of Meyer Brothers Drug Co. Queeny originally set out to produce saccharin, an artificial sweetener, and named the company Monsanto after his wife, Olga Monsanto Queeny.
Monsanto buys a lot owned by Diamond Match Co. for $75,000, shortly after Diamond’s nearby building had burned to the ground.
In January, Monsanto Chemical Works begins advertising in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In December, Monsanto completes construction of a new employee services building. Situated on Lafayette Avenue, east of Second Street, the two-story building provides a lunch and recreation room, lockers and shower facilities for 300 workers at one time.
Through 1969, Monsanto is one of nine contractors to produce the defoliating herbicide known as “Agent Orange,” used in the Vietnam War. Agent Orange’s chemical mixture included toxic substances such as dioxin and continues to be a health concern for veterans who were exposed to it.
After beginning product development and testing in the mid-1960s, Monsanto starts selling Lasso herbicide. The weed killer is a best-selling corn and soy herbicide in the U.S. for more than two decades.
Only a year after Lasso’s release, Monsanto develops Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide. The highly effective herbicide would evolve into one of the company’s marquee products — especially once aided by future innovations described below — and remains widely used today.