Monsanto, the infamous name behind GMO crops and chemicals like Roundup that are used to grow them, has been a dominant player in the seed and chemical industry for decades. As another agribusiness giant, Bayer CropScience, seeks approval to purchase Monsanto, it’s worth taking a look at how Monsanto got so big. Hint: This isn’t Monsanto’s first foray into the world of mergers and acquisitions.
Originally founded in 1901, Monsanto got its start producing the artificial sweetner saccharine, moving into agricultural chemicals in the 1940s. Monsanto grew into a chemical goliath over the course of the 20th century, producing industrial chemicals, herbicides and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto’s agricultural acquisitions didn’t actually begin until the 1980s with the company’s takeovers of Jacob Hartz Seed, Hybridtech and GD Searle. Monsanto’s expansion accelerated during the following decade, as it bought eleven seed companies, including major players like Dekalb, Asgrow and Calgene. The late 1990s saw Monsanto spend billions to acquire strong positions in corn and soy. In 1997, Monsanto spun off its chemical business to focus on agricultural products.
Monsanto’s wave of mergers intensified in 2004 with its purchase of Channel Bio Corp and Advanta seeds, and continued into the next year when it bought the vegetable seed company Seminis for $1.4 billion, as well as Specialty Hybrids and Stone Seeds. During 2006, Monsanto gobbled up several more seed companies, a string of small corn and soy competitors. 2007, the fourth year of Monsanto’s spending spree, witnessed the company snapping up yet more small and local seed companies, as well as Delta Pine Land, the largest cotton seed company at the time.
Monsanto’s purchase of Delta Pine Land faced regulatory scrutiny; in fact, Monsanto had tried, but failed to buy it in 1998, due to antitrust complications. Ultimately, Monsanto was forced to sell parts of its cotton business to Bayer in order to complete the deal, although the pending merger with Bayer may finally give Monsanto the opportunity to claim the entire Delta Pine Land profile. When the dust cleared, Monsanto had added over thirty new subsidiaries in just four years.
Monsanto continued its global expansion in 2008 with the purchase of foreign seed companies De Ruiter, Marmot S.A and Aly Participacoes LTDA. In 2009, Monsanto bought another foreign company, Seminium S.A., and WestBred LLC, a wheat seed breeder. In 2010, Monsanto bought a Hungarian seed company, Pannon Seeds and a Chilean seed processing plant from Anasac.
Monsanto then began buying up specialty agricultural companies, starting with Divergence and Beeologics in 2011, and following with Precision Planting, a high-tech planting equipment company Monsanto ultimately re-sold to Agco in 2012. While only buying one seed company Monsanto, managed to nab three small research and development companies such as Grassroots Biotechnology in 2013. The next year saw more diversification into non-seed agricultural technologies with its purchase of The Climate Corporation.
As of late summer 2017, Monsanto’s proposed merger with Bayer awaits regulatory approval.