According to the recent 2007 Top Biotech and Pharma Employers survey conducted by Science magazine, Monsanto Company has been ranked as one of the top 10 employers in the biotechnology industry, making it the only agricultural company on the list.
This is Monsanto’s first appearance on the list. The original company was established in 1947 in Argentina, although it could trace its business roots back to 1901 and the production of saccharine. Its crop genetic modification industry is now headquartered in St Louis, Missouri. In 1982, scientists working for Monsanto became the first to genetically modify a plant cell.
In its annual survey, Science magazine asks employees to write in the names of companies they considered best, average, and worst employers. The companies also get rated on 23 different attributes which include Corporate Image, Leadership and Direction, Financial Prowess, Work Culture/Environment, Work/Life Balance, Academics and Collegial Exchange, and Compensation and Benefits.
Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D., chief technology officer and executive vice president for Monsanto, said in response, “On behalf of Monsanto and its employees, we’re honored and excited to receive this great recognition. We recognize that in order to realize our mission of helping farmers to be more profitable and productive, we have to start with dedicated and talented people. We’ve just completed a remarkable year, and the dedication, effort and teamwork at Monsanto play an important role in that success.”
In spite of having an outstanding reputation among most agriculturalists, Monsanto has not been unnoticed by what critics call the reflexive attitude of fear and suspicions surrounding genetically modified crops, wherein lies a great part of Monsanto’s expertise.
One factor bringing what supporters say is unwarranted criticism Monsanto has been its success in developing improved, genetically modified forms of corn, soybeans, and cotton. The company has spent many millions of dollars to created seeds bio-engineered to resist drought and insects. The results have been a huge success, yielding enormous gains and helping produce record corn harvests in the corn-hungry United States since 2003. The criticism? It is claimed that the efforts of Monsanto and others like it are undermining the U.S. wheat industry, which once had a 50% global market share but which now commands less than 25% of the global wheat market.
However, Monsanto discontinued its research into producing what would have been the world’s first genetically engineered wheat in 2004, bowing to the expressed concerns of farmers that the crop would endanger exports. The wheat would have been genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s proprietary Roundup herbicide, so that farmers could have sprayed their fields to kill weeds but without damaging the crop.
Monsanto is currently being accused by thousands of farmers of anti-competitive corporate practices and indiscriminately contaminating fields with its genetically modified crops.