Reality-Check
May 23, 2014
Myth #8: Monsanto invented Agent Orange

False. Monsanto did not invent Agent Orange.

As we have explained in greater depth on our website and elsewhere, Agent Orange is the name given to the combination of two commercially available herbicides which had been used for decades before the Vietnam War. The former Monsanto, which was primarily a chemical company, along with 9 other companies, supplied the U.S. government these herbicides as part of the war effort. The combination of these herbicides is what the U.S. government named Agent Orange after the colour of the stripe put on the barrels that contained it. 

The nine Agent Orange manufacturers were government contractors acting at the direction of the government, which was exercising its authority under the U.S. War Powers Act. The government set the manufacturing specifications for Agent Orange, and decided when, where and how it was used. Agent Orange was only made for military use by the government.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings that the manufacturers were not responsible for the implications of military use of Agent Orange because the war materials were supplied at the direction of the U.S. government.

A concise and informative summary of Agent Orange can be found in an article written by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, the judge in the United States who handled all Agent Orange litigation for 30 years.  Judge Weinstein notes that the idea that Agent Orange might be the cause of a wide variety of alleged personal injury was first suggested after the Vietnam War by a social worker from Chicago, and that idea became widespread in the media, becoming accepted fact without any proof.  He writes after handling the litigation for 30 years that there is simply no competent scientific or medical proof that Agent Orange caused the wide array of alleged serious injuries and birth defects.

Outside of the U.S., Agent Orange lawsuits were filed in Korea by several thousand allied veterans from South Korea claiming injury from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.  Unlike the U.S. litigation which was settled long ago, the Korean matters proceeded through trial and appeals.  After carefully considering the evidence for over six years, in July 2013 the Supreme Court of Korea issued a decision which concluded that there was no scientific or medical evidence to support the claim that serious health effects, or after-effects, were caused by alleged exposure to Agent Orange.

Given this background, we are mystified as to why certain non-governmental organizations and extremists groups continue to talk about Monsanto’s involvement with Agent Orange as if it were yesterday.

Many widely respected companies, from German auto makers, banks and pharmaceutical companies to aeroplane manufacturers, clothing companies and food producers at one time or another have supplied governments for military procurement purposes during times of war. Yet few people shun these auto-makers, aspirin makers, banks, clothing companies or food producers because of that involvement.

Why is Monsanto different? We would argue that in fact Monsanto is no different than those other companies. What is different, sadly, is that Monsanto has competitors, along with certain political groups and non-governmental organizations, that appear to see a commercial or political benefit in keeping Agent Orange in the headlines.

Consider these facts: Monsanto stopped making Agent Orange in 1969, more than 40 years ago. Hardly anyone working for Monsanto at that time is still with the company today. The majority of the chemicals business of Monsanto was spun off in the 1990’s, and by simple math almost anyone who would have worked for Monsanto in the 1960s must be in their 60s today and is most likely retired. The vast majority of people working at Monsanto globally today were born long after the Vietnam war ended and the production of Agent Orange was discontinued.

[If you’ve heard any other stories about Monsanto that you suspect aren’t true, please review our other blog entries in this series or download our pocket-sized Myths & Facts leaflet, which is available in several languages.]

Comments

    William
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    June 1, 2015
    I wasn't born during the Vietnam war, but looking at the people who mutated from Agent Orange broke my heart and filled it with darkness.
    Reply
    Kathy
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    June 10, 2015
    Yes, Mirex was available commercially, and was, in fact, used on the National Mall. But it was the chemical companies who developed and sold a concentrated system to the government to kill the forest cover in Vietnam, a war we were not winning.
    Reply
    Brandon Mitchener
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    June 10, 2015
    Thanks for your comment. What you say isn't incompatible with our own statement. Yes, the former Monsanto--a very different company--made AO, but it didn't invent it and didn't use it and stopped making it as soon as the war ended. Certain activist groups continue to hammer today's Monsanto with such legacy issues even though the former Monsanto stopped making those things in the early 1970s and almost anyone who even worked for that company then is long since retired. The only reason the activists drag this up on a regular basis is to demonize all pesticides and companies that make them even though it's obvious that AO and the pesticides used in agriculture today are subject to very different regulatory approvals and uses.
    Reply
    Steve Downey
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    July 22, 2015
    So again no one is responsible. Agent Orange does not cause significant problems. That is so much of a lie. I served honorable in the United State Marine Corp in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, my rear was a place called LZ Baldy; it was named that way because it was heavily spray with Agent Orange. Today I am rate 10% disabled for systemic heart disease due to exposure to AO. What bothers me the most outside of the fact that AO will probably be the cause of my death is that my skin since returning from Vietnam is allergic to sunlight. I can not tolerate direct sunlight for more than 30 minutes or my skin breaks out in horrible rashes and I will itch uncontrolably. The V. A. says it does not fall under the listed skin problems. Before Vietnam I was an avid water skier, swimmer and diver. Someone had to know this Agent Orange should not be used near living humans. P.S. I was awarded a Meritorious Promotion to Corporal while in Vietnam and feel very hurt my government has not done more to prosecute the people reasonable for Agent Orange.
    Reply
    Brandon Mitchener
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    July 29, 2015
    Steve, Thanks for your comment. Many people continue to suffer from the experience of the Vietnam War, where both troops and civilians may have been exposed to a number of products including napalm as well as Agent Orange. I have an uncle who was also exposed to Agent Orange and is collecting disability benefits from the U.S. government despite the lack of a causal connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans. It's not the case that "no one is responsible." But U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) which produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry. Our full official statement about AO can be found on our website here: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/agent-orange-background-monsanto-involvement.aspx. The purpose of the blog post on which you commented was simply to provide additional context about how certain groups continue to use AO as a hammer to beat Monsanto with, even though the Monsanto of today has little to do with the company that stopped making AO more than 40 years ago. This is unfair to the people who work at Monsanto today and does nothing to help those, like you and my uncle, who are still living with the legacy of the war. Sincerely, Brandon Mitchener
    Reply
    I Melvin Wallace was With FLC LSU # 3
    |
    August 19, 2015
    I was At Baldy Aug 1969 to July 1970. Went there with the 7th the day they went to Baldy and Ross. nick name was doc to to my initials was M.D.
    Reply
    Harlow Nicoll
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    June 5, 2016
    I served in Vietnam fromm 4/69 to 3/71. My AO involvement has led to heart disease, lung disease copd asthma chronic bronchitas,liver disease h. as in hepatitis C, diabetes, gastro esophageal reflux disease, glaucoma. Last but least I have no immune system. I have had two surgeries this year. The first was for necrosis fascitisduribg which I nearly lost my right leg and during my medication pump to change to a new one the unit came out covered with staph. All of these diseases are chronic and will kill me. Of course all of these diseases are a coincidence. Corporations, thats you and aa failing government is a lethal ccombination. Tank you very much. And now who did invent this AO? Be a man, pass the buck and tell us.
    Reply
    Brandon Mitchener
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    June 7, 2016
    First of all, I want to express Monsanto’s sympathy for your health problems. The U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange is an emotional issue for many people, not just American servicemen. I do, however, have to point out to you that the former Monsanto (and 8 other companies) manufactured Agent Orange at the direction of the United States Government, which set the specifications for Agent Orange and decided how, where and when it was used. Agent Orange was only made for military use by the U.S. Government. We have additional information about Agent Orange on our website Monsanto.com (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/agent-orange-background-monsanto-involvement.aspx).
    Reply
    Engineer
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    August 20, 2016
    I find this article interesting. I currently work for a Chemical company that also produced AO during the war that was not Monsanto. I thought that I might understand where it came from. I feel sorry for the people affected by it and will never understand what they are going through. Like Monsanto it was a long time back then and they had no idea what AO would do to people. I go to work everyday and produce chemicals to make peoples lives better in every way. Its definitely a different world now. Thank you for addressing their needs, for they have endured atrocities beyond measure.
    Reply
    Giang
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    October 29, 2016
    "Time to move on?" Go and tell that to the third and fourth generation still affected. This post is disgusting. A chemical company saying they aren't aware of the heath risks of dioxin. Yeah go inhale some carbon monoxide, you probably aren't aware of its effects. The effects of dioxin is proved. Go google it. Denying whatever kind of responsibility you had is foolish because everyone knows that you ARE responsible. Accept it. Apologize. Do kind things to remedy the effects. And then, MAYBE, move on.
    Reply
    EU Corporate Engagement Team
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    November 2, 2016
    It is unfortunate when anyone suffers with health issues. But we have to point out to you that the former Monsanto (and 8 other companies) manufactured Agent Orange at the direction of the United States Government. The U.S. Military’s use of Agent Orange is an emotional issue for many people. The Government set the specifications for Agent Orange and decided how, where and when it was used. Agent Orange was only made for military use by the Government. We have additional information about Agent Orange on our website Monsanto.com (http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/agent-orange-background-monsanto-involvement.aspx). EU Corporate Engagement Team.
    Reply
    eric wais
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    December 1, 2016
    Ah, the big, bad government forced/coerced the "former" Monsanto to make a ton of profit. You're not nearly as sly as you think you are. Keep trying to rationalize your guilt away.
    Reply
    EU Corporate Engagement Team
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    December 1, 2016
    Hello Eric, If we're sticking to the facts here, you do realise that the company you're referring to changed its name to the Pharmacia Corporation back in 2000. Pharmacia itself eventually becomes a subsidiary of Pfizer in 2003. The current company today is a newer stand-alone company that came into existence in the year 2000. Source: http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/pages/monsanto-history.aspx EU Corporate Engagement Team.
    Reply
    Anastasia Renata
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    January 22, 2017
    Just because there are new employees at the company, does not mean that Monsanto is not morally responsible & that they shouldn't be held accountable legally & financially. Just today, I was talking to a woman married to a Vietnam veteran for 50 years and counting... of her five pregnancies with six children (one pregnancy was with twins), she only managed to have two living children, and barely. Four of the six children she carried, including the twins, died in utero, age 5 months & up. Miscarriage after miscarriage, due to complications from Agent Orange poisoning & disabling her husband. They (and many many others) still suffer from the affects even though it was so long ago that you'd like the ugly facts to be forgotten. The fact that other companies manufactured AO, too, does NOT mean Monsanto is free of moral responsibility. "Well, five other people robbed the bank with me so I shouldn't be held accountable." BULL! The only difference from that statement is that it's corporations instead of people, and instead of it being a bank that was robbed & wronged, it was the people of the world. So you just produced AO? Isn't the manufacturers who do safety studies & give results? So WHO told the government that AO was safe to use?? Monsanto is a very different company today? How so? That you had & have high level executives running the FDA (Michael R. Taylor ring a bell? Your ex VICE PRESIDENT who the went to ruin the FDA?) & other government agencies supposed to protect us from evil, greedy companies like Monsanto.. the fact that you're money & greed has helped you infiltrate the government does NOT excuse your MORAL RESPONSIBILITY! The fact that you got away with it legally, does not excuse your MORAL RESPONSIBILITY! You want people to move on... to give you a pass... forgive you??? Then admit to the damage & harm & pain & suffering you caused, try to ease the burden on those who will suffer until they die, learn from your mistakes & BE BETTER! All the money & resources Monsanto spends remaining in denial & trying to cover the truth, is money & resources that could go to those you've harmed. How in the world can anyone forgive you when you've never asked? You can deny the truth all you want.. it doesn't change the facts or remove your accountability. We, the people, including your victims, KNOW the TRUTH. You CONTINUE TO WRONG the people you've harmed when you keep trying to cover the truth.
    Reply
    EU Corporate Engagement Team
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    January 23, 2017
    Dear Anastasia, As a company we think it is important to be transparent about this issue as much as possible and that is why we are publishing your comment in its entirety, along with the below reply, to show that we do not deny or shy away from addressing the seriousness of this topic. But while you have highlighted the theme of truth it is important to ensure it comprises the facts. The facts are that the former Monsanto (and 8 other companies) manufactured Agent Orange at the direction of the United States Government. The U.S. Military’s use of Agent Orange is an emotional issue for many people that we feel is important to respond to on this blog so there is a record of the context to this story. The U.S. Government set the specifications for Agent Orange and decided how, where and when it was used. More information can be found here: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/agent-orange-background-monsanto-involvement.aspx EU Corporate Engagement Team.
    Reply
    James Kelly
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    September 26, 2017
    I served in Marine medevacs, I Corps, Vietnam from July, '66 to July '67 when the heaviest use of Agent Orange in the war was felt. My daughter was born with spina bifida and I've suffered from type II diabetes for decades. Now I'm writing an historical novel about my experiences in Vietnam and would like to know how much money Monsanto made from selling Agent Orange to the military. I know you didn't invent it or say where to use this dangerous chemical but you made money on the deaths and illness of thousands of Americans. As a child, I would ride your ride at Disneyland and I thought you were an ethical company. Please answer my question. I'll be happy to quote you in the novel.
    Reply
    EU Corporate Engagement Team
    |
    September 27, 2017
    Dear Mr. Kelly, First and foremost, thank you for your service. It is unfortunate whenever people experience health problems and our thoughts are with you and your family. As you are aware, Agent Orange is an emotional issue for many people. You are correct. The former Monsanto Company did not invent Agent Orange and it never had any involvement in where, when or how the U.S. government used the final chemical composition in Vietnam. A concise and informative summary of Agent Orange can be found in an article written by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, Preliminary Reflections on Administration of Complex Litigations, the judge in the United States who handled all Agent Orange Litigation for 30 years. In the meantime on our company’s behalf, we wish you the best with your novel.
    Reply

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