In 1960, an Agricultural Division is formed within Monsanto. In the mid-1960s, Monsanto established Monsanto Agricultural Centers, or MACs. They were retail operations, something new to Monsanto, and provided all the fertilizer and pesticides a farmer might need, including testing and product application to fields in some cases. MACs were phased out in 1975.
A young chemist named John Franz, who had recently been transferred to the Ag division, began work with another scientist, Dr. Phil Hamm, the head of Monsanto's herbicide screening program. Hamm was excited about two compounds that had been recently submitted by chemists from another part of Monsanto, compounds that initially were studied as water softeners. Hamm wondered if there might be some use for the compounds as herbicides and asked Franz to study them.
Franz proceeded to study how these compounds metabolized within plants. He theorized that a beneficial compound might be produced during the plant's metabolic process, and if he was lucky, he might be able to synthesize one of these compounds. The third compound he synthesized would prove to be one that would change the face of farming. The molecule John Franz discovered was called glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's original Roundup® herbicide formulation.
In the early 1970s when glyphosate was first discovered, Monsanto marketers were perplexed. They were accustomed to selling herbicides that were selective, which killed certain weeds but left crops unharmed. Glyphosate was non-selective, killing virtually all plants with which it came in contact. But because it was environmentally friendly, marketers continued to try to find ways it could be used commercially.
Original Roundup® brand herbicide commercialized in Malaysia and the UK.
Original Roundup brand herbicide commercialized for agricultural use in Canada.
The original Roundup® herbicide allowed farmers to kill almost every weed that emerged from the soil, thus decreasing the need for tilling to control weeds and suffering soil erosion in the process. This Roundup® product also seemed to be the perfect environmental solution at the perfect time. It was found to decompose into natural products — carbon dioxide, phosphoric acid, and ammonia — and was also found to be safe for humans and wildlife. Environmentally speaking, the original Roundup® herbicide proved to be one of, if not the safest, herbicides in history.
In 1970 most farmers believed they had no choice but to use herbicides and tilling to control weeds. At the time, most herbicides were pre-emergent, meaning they created a chemical barrier on the surface of a field and killed weeds when they sprouted through this barrier and came in contact with the herbicide. To be effective, pre-emergent herbicides had to spread when they were applied to fields, ensuring a consistent, even barrier against sprouting weeds. They also needed to stay active for a long time so they would continue to be effective after the spring rainy season. These two common traits were environmentally problematic because active pre-emergent herbicides could wash into streams and ground water, potentially effecting wildlife and fish. The original Roundup® herbicide was different, becoming one of the most environmentally friendly herbicides in the history of agriculture.
Starting in the early 1980s, Monsanto began to invest heavily in a new science called biotechnology. The company built new labs, hired new scientists, performed year upon year of research and spent billions of dollars chasing a dream.
Original Roundup brand herbicide named by Farm Chemicals Magazine as one of the “Top Ten Products that Changed the Face of Agriculture.”
Roundup Ready Canola is introduced in Canada. This technology changed the face of Western Canadian agriculture and was a catalyst in the success of the Canadian canola industry.
Roundup Ready Soybeans are introduced in Canada, providing farmers with in-seed herbicide tolerance to Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides.
Roundup WeatherMAX is now sold in Canada.
Dr. John Franz is introduced into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame for his invention of glyphosate.
Roundup Transorb HC is now for sale in Canada.