Monsanto is no stranger to the headlines.
Producing GM crops, weed-killers and being a major player in international agriculture has made it a familiar target for the ire of environmental campaigners.
But it’s become another type of target today after rival Bayer offered $62 billion (55 billion euros) in cash.
Here are few things you need to know about the company
Monsanto is a giant …
It has 404 facilities in 66 countries, including 146 in the United States alone. As of Aug. 31, 2015, Monsanto employed about 22,500 regular employees worldwide, and about 3,000 temporary employees.
The company products are everywhere. The company’s Intacta RR2 PRO™ soybeans seeds are cultivated in over 60,700 squared kilometres in South America, a figure the company says in its 2015 annual report it hopes to double.
Monsanto’s direct competitors are Syngenta, whose valuation is 32 billion euros, and Dow Chemical, worth 45.78 billion euros. Monsanto is worth 39.97 billion euros.
…which could grow bigger.
If it goes through, Bayer’s plan to buy Monsanto, potentially the biggest foreign takeover by a German firm, would create the world’s largest farm supplier according to Reuters. It would eclipse a planned combination of Dow Chemical and DuPont’s agriculture units.
This new conglomerate would be in control of 29% of the world’s seed market and 24% of the pesticide market
Seed types it offers are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, sorghum, sugarbeet and wheat.
Monsanto is over 100 years old
It was created in 1901, and initially produced saccharine. It started making agricultural chemicals after 1945. The controversial Roundup herbicide was first commercialized in the US in 1976, and the company first sold genetically modified seeds in 1996.
Roundup could become illegal in the EU
Roundup represents 40% of Monsanto’s turnover (1.3 billion euros in 2012). Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready seeds, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their genetically modified crop.
Advocates argue that because the combination is more effective at killing weeds, fewer chemicals are required overall.
The European Union has postponed a decision on the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, over fears it can cause cancer.
In March 2015, the glyphiosate was considered “probably carcinogenic to humans” by IARC. But another study from FAO and WHO in May 2016 concluded that it is unlikely that glyphosate is carcinogenic through food.
It is currently engaged in several lawsuits
The US cities of Seattle, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, San Diego and Spokane are all suing Monsanto. They are seeking cleaning damage from the company for toxic PCB pollution in the cities’ drainage system.
Monsanto says it was not responsible for the disposal of the products.