Agent Orange: Background on Monsanto's Involvement

From 1965 to 1969, the former Monsanto Company manufactured Agent Orange for the U.S. military as a wartime government contractor. The current Monsanto Company has maintained responsibility for this product since we were spun-off as a separate, independent agricultural company in 2002.

More than 40 years ago, Agent Orange was one of 15 herbicides used by the U.S. military as a defoliant in the Vietnam War to protect and save the lives of U.S. and allied soldiers.  It was a unique mixture of two common herbicides (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T ) that had been used separately in the United States since the late 1940s.  The government named the mixture “Agent Orange” because of the orange band that was painted on containers of the material.   

From 1965 to 1969, the former Monsanto Company was one of nine wartime government contractors who manufactured Agent Orange.  The government set the specifications for making Agent Orange and determined when, where and how it was used. Agent Orange was only produced for, and used by, the government.

 

Ongoing Research and Services

The use of Agent Orange as a military herbicide in Vietnam continues to be an emotional subject for many people. Asian Affairs Specialist Michael Martin notes, “[a]t the time the herbicides were used, there was little consideration within the U.S. military about potential long-term environmental and health effects of the widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.”

As a result, the governments that were involved most often take responsibility for resolving any consequences of the Vietnam War, including any relating to the use of Agent Orange. U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) who produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry. 

Research on Agent Orange has been conducted for decades and continues today. While a causal connection linking Agent Orange to chronic disease in humans has not been established, some governments have made the decision to provide certain medical benefits to veterans and their families even though there has not been a determination that an individual’s health problem was caused by Agent Orange.  In addition, governments and non-governmental humanitarian organizations have increased funding of environmental and healthcare services to help address potential problems that may exist in Vietnam from the use of Agent Orange.