Teaching Students About the History of Monsanto
Monsanto, a company with a controversial history, has evolved over the years to become an influential player in the agricultural and biotechnology industries. This article offers insights on how to teach students about the history of Monsanto, helping them gain a well-rounded understanding.
1. Begin with the origins: Introduce students to the establishment of Monsanto in 1901 by John Francis Queeny in St. Louis, Missouri. Explain that the company initially manufactured saccharin, an artificial sweetener, and later expanded its product line to produce other chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Agent Orange.
2. The chemical era: Inform students about Monsanto’s involvement in World War II by producing essential materials like styrene monomer and rubber compounds. Discuss the use of DDT pesticide after WWII and highlight Monsanto’s development of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War – both products associated with severe environmental and health effects.
3. Agribusiness shift: Emphasize Monsanto’s transition in the1980s from being primarily a chemical company into a life-sciences corporation focusing on agricultural biotechnology. Explain their introduction of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), a controversial product designed to increase milk production in cows.
4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Instruct students on Monsanto’s development of genetically modified (GM) seeds since 1996, which led to widespread adoption of GM crops around the world. Discuss concerns related to GMO crops, including environmental impact, food safety, and corporate control over agriculture.
5. Acquisition by Bayer: Update students on recent developments such as Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, making it one of the largest mergers in their industry. Mention that the merged company operates under Bayer’s name while phasing out the Monsanto brand.
6. Legal battles and controversies: Discuss recent lawsuits against Monsanto, such as glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, now under Bayer’s management, which has been linked to cancer. Ensure students understand the importance of examining complex topics like corporate social responsibility, ethics, and public health.
7. Ethical considerations: Encourage students to engage in discussions about the ethical implications of Monsanto’s history in relation to human health, the environment, and the global food system. Promote critical thinking and ask them to consider different perspectives when forming their opinion.
In conclusion, teaching students about Monsanto’s history requires a nuanced approach that accounts for its various phases – from chemical production to the development of genetically modified seeds. By providing historical context and fostering open discussion around the ethical implications, students will be equipped with an informed outlook on this important topic in agriculture and biotechnology.