Monsanto | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto

Monsanto's widely-used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto and several growers associations filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the state of California for adding the herbicide ingredient glyphosate to a list of cancer-causing substances. 

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced in July it would add glyphosate to Proposition 65. Known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, the California law requires the state to publish a list of substances known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

Sikeston, Missouri — In front of several greenhouse scaffolds, Steve Hamra gestured to a metal cart containing trays of seedlings for bell peppers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. About 150 miles south of St. Louis on a 10-acre site, Hamra is growing produce hydroponically, or in water instead of soil, for about 400 schools, in Missouri and other states.

Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech  at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As European regulators investigate the potential $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger, Bayer's CropScience division is preparing to address challenges in crop technology, especially those tied to Monsanto's products. 

At the annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, said a priority for the merged companies would be addressing a decline in pollinators and meeting the high demand for herbicides to combat resistant weeds.

Logan Jackson | Curators of the University of Missouri

Large agricultural corporations influence all stripes of Missouri politicians, including the Republicans who control the Missouri General Assembly.

A new nonprofit organization is seeking to change that, pushing back against Big Ag’s money and lobbyists. But it’s a tall order, especially when multibillion-dollar companies like Monsanto and Smithfield donate hefty sums to rural Democrats’ and Republicans’ campaigns.

Carol Van Strum has been in legal battles with the federal government and chemical industries since the 1970s. She amassed a trove of government documents, which are now being published for the first time.
Risa Scott | RF Scott Imagery

Bending a rusted, gnarled piece of wire gate just above her head, Carol Van Strum ducked into the old, dark shed where she kept some old, dark secrets.

“This was my bear deterrent,” she said of the makeshift gate.

She shined a lantern past a stack of hay bales, lighting up a row of decaying cardboard boxes that housed what’s left of her document trove.

“This is where the worst of them were,” she said. “This whole, it was just filled. And you can see the state of them. This is what they all looked like.”

After gathering dust, rust and rat poop for decades in the Siuslaw National Forest, Van Strum’s piles of documents about the chemical industry are poised to become evidence in lawsuits with billions of dollars at stake.  

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

A California law firm has released several dozen internal documents that show that Monsanto influenced research on glyphosate, Roundup’s key ingredient.

The lawyers represent farmers who claimed in a lawsuit that exposure to Roundup caused them non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The documents posted Tuesday on the law firm's website include email and memos that contain more evidence that the company had ghostwritten research on the health effects of glyphosate. They build on other evidence a federal judge unsealed in March

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 2:30 p.m. July 13 with comment from Monsanto — Farmers can resume using the herbicide dicamba, the Missouri Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The new restrictions come less than a week after the department issued a temporary ban on the sale and use of the controversial herbicide. Missouri has received more than 100 complaints this year of drifting herbicide, which had damaged crops.

Monsanto's widely-used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, will be added to the list of chemicals California warns are known to cause cancer.

The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has posted a notice on its website that glyphosate will be added to the list on July 7. A California judge denied Monsanto's request to block the state from doing so, but the company has filed an appeal.

Flickr | TerryJohnston

Updated July 18 with deal closing - Panera Bread is no longer a locally-owned company. The $7.5 billion acquisition by European business group J-A-B Holding Company was completed Tuesday morning. The deal takes Panera private and its shares are no longer trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Monsanto's widely-used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto is facing more pressure to compensate farmers and farm workers who allege that its leading pesticide product caused them to develop cancer. 

A Los Angeles-based law firm on Friday filed 136 new cases against the company in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The lawsuits allege that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused the plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The debate over the safety of Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup has become more complicated, as newly released emails suggest the company had ghostwritten scientific research on glyphosate, the pesticide’s key ingredient.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On behalf of several farmers in 10 states, including Missouri and Illinois, a law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto.

The main allegation is that the agriculture company knowingly sold a crop that did not have any approved herbicide to go along with it in 2015 and 2016. As a result, farmers who planted Monsanto’s Xtend cotton and soybean seed used dicamba, an illegal herbicide, to avoid damage to the crops.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Jan. 17 with comments from Bayer, Monsanto and Trump administration - More details are emerging about Bayer's possible acquisition of St. Louis-based Monsanto. The companies and the incoming Trump administration on Tuesday provided some specifics about job numbers and investment levels.

In a joint statement, Bayer and Monsanto said there are plans to invest $16 billion in agricultural research and development over six years, with at least $8 billion of that in the United States.

Corn stalks sit in a new greenhouse structure, which features 160,000 feet of glass at Monsanto on Oct. 28, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto has reached a non-exclusive licensing deal with a local company to use a tool that could help engineer new, high-yielding seeds. 

The GenoMAGIC technology was developed by NRGene, an Israeli startup that opened its U.S. headquarters in St. Louis last spring. Scientists use the tool to analyze genes in plants. Monsanto wants to use it to find new combinations of genes that could produce bigger harvests for farmers.

Scottrade secured the naming-rights for the home of the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues in 2006.
.bobby | Flickr

On Friday’s "Behind the Headlines" on St. Louis on the Air, we discussed the top stories of the week with those who brought a little more in-depth knowledge to them.

On this week’s program, we discussed:

The Monsanto-Bayer acquisition with Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, we went "Behind the Headlines” to discuss the top stories of the week with those who can bring a little more in-depth knowledge to them. On this week’s program, we discussed:

The Monsanto-Bayer deal with Tim Greaney, J.D. Chester A. Meyers Professor of Law; Co-Director, Center for Health Law Studies, Saint Louis University. Greaney used to work in the anti-trust division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Two women walk home after a day of work at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organisation in Namulonge.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The world’s largest seed companies have their eye trained on Africa’s farming industry. A few, including St. Louis-based Monsanto, see drought-resistant corn as the key to an untapped market.

But some African civil service organizations are wary of the genetically modified seeds Monsanto hopes to introduce.

Monsanto shareholders approve sale to Bayer

Dec 13, 2016
Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto shareholders have approved Bayer’s roughly $65 billion acquisition of the seed giant.

The company said 99 percent of shareholders present Tuesday morning in Chesterfield voted in favor of the $128 per share deal and that 75 percent of all shareholders attended the special meeting.

“It was overwhelming support,” said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a phone interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

Botanist Nigel Taylor checks the stems of cassava plants at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis developers of genetically-modified organisms have called into question a New York Times report that compares the yields of genetically modified crops between North America and Europe.

Using data from the United Nations, an investigative report published over the weekend by the Times claimed that "genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides." Agriculture in the United States and Canada has embraced GMOs, while many European countries have banned cultivation of them for many years. The article also cites a National Academy report released this year that said there is no evidence that using GM crops have accelerated yield. 

In a statement released Monday, Monsanto said that it's tough to compare yields between large geographic areas, such as the United States and Europe.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday to open 36 new greenhouses at its Chesterfield Research Center.

The celebration of the state-of-the-art greenhouses was held against the backdrop of last month's announcement that Bayer will buy Monsanto in a $66 billion deal.

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told the crowd, made up of mostly employees and a few members of the media, that Bayer's acquisition is an opportunity.

Christine Anyeko, a laborer in Uganda's northern Amuru district, weeds a field of cassava, banana and beans by hand.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

NAMULONGE, Uganda — Before rows of tall, green bushes, Jude Aleu picks a cassava tuber off the ground and cracks it in half.

That shouldn’t be so easy. Healthy cassava tubers — a staple food crop in the region — can grow as thick as your upper arm. But the root in Aleu’s hands is stunted and gnarled because of a plant virus called brown streak disease. When he breaks it open, the flesh is streaked with brown and yellow, a necrosis that will render the harvest inedible.

“It’s corky,” said Aleu, a cassava safety manager for Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute. “This root you cannot eat. Even animals cannot eat it.” 

Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Losing a corporate headquarters is generally not considered good news.

Yet the announcement that Creve Coeur-based Monsanto is likely to be acquired by Bayer is being viewed by many in the startup community as a positive.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The head of St. Louis-based Monsanto says completing the $66 billion deal with Bayer is one of his company's main goals for 2017. Hugh Grant has also given analysts reasons why he thinks the takeover by the German company will be cleared by regulators. He spoke Wednesday during Monsanto's quarterly earnings call.

Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto has acquired a license to engineer crops using the revolutionary gene editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9. 

The tool is considered more effective and simpler to use than the transgenesis method of developing genetically modified organisms. Developing a GMO involves introducing a foreign gene that carries a trait, such as resistance to drought or a particular pest. Testing a GMO seed can take years and complying with regulations that control such products can raise costs of development. 

Botanist Nigel Taylor checks the stems of cassava plants at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As botanist Nigel Taylor moves through a greenhouse kept to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent humidity, he checks the stems of young, potted cassava plants.

“You can see it there, OK?” Taylor said, pulling one forward. “We’re getting lesions on the stem, this plant’s quite badly infected.”

Call it manioc, tapioca or cassava — this starchy, tropical tuber feeds millions of people around the world. In many parts of East and Central Africa, farmers are experiencing declining yields of cassava due to brown streak virus, a plant disease that can render a crop inedible.

For the past decade, scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur have led a project that tries another tack: genetically modifying cassava plants for disease resistance.

Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Senior executives with Bayer and Monsanto are defending the German company’s proposed $66 billion acquisition of the St. Louis agricultural giant. They were among the industry leaders who testified Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on agricultural consolidation.

The Bayer-Monsanto deal comes as other acquisitions in the agricultural sector are pending. Dow Chemical and DuPont are midway through the regulatory process, while ChemChina and Switzerland-based Syngenta also have a proposed deal.

(courtesy Monsanto and Bayer)

Bayer and Monsanto executives are working to calm nerves in St. Louis regarding the planned $66 billion acquisition.

In Wednesday's announcement, Bayer said it will keep the combined company’s seeds and traits business in St. Louis, as well as its North American headquarters.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 10:25 a.m., Sept. 14 with CEO comments -  The head of Monsanto is assuring St. Louis residents about the company's commitment to the region, following the announcement that the agribusiness giant is being acquired by Germany-based Bayer. Hugh Grant told reporters the combination is good news for the region and points to the fact that it will be the global center for the combined company's seeds and traits operations.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 7:18 a.m., Sept. 6 with revised Bayer offer - St. Louis-based Monsanto is evaluating another takeover proposal from a German company. Bayer announced early Tuesday morning that is has increased its offer by roughly 2 percent. It’s a more than $65 billion proposal.

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Provided by The Climate Corporation

The sale of a Monsanto unit's high-speed planting technology subsidiary is in jeopardy. The federal government has gone to court to block the deal. It contends the multi-million dollar sale would hinder competition and raise costs for farmers. The companies involved in the potential transaction are vowing to fight the claims.

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