Published April 1999
Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide (trade name: Roundup™ ) is the world's top selling crop protection chemical. Monsanto's U.S. patent protection for the glyphosate compound per se will expire in 2000, opening the U.S. market to generic competitors. (Patents in other countries expired in 1991.) To meet this challenge, Monsanto has mounted the following initiatives to maintain sales and profitability of this important product:
Development of glyphosate-resistant crops to increase demand for the herbicide
- Initiation of a price cutting strategy to pre-empt generic producers
- Development of a new process technology based on diethanolamine to reduce hazardous waste and eliminate hydrogen cyanide as a raw material for new production facilities
- Investment in overseas production facilities
- Development of a new carrier technology for more effective adsorption by target plants.
This PEP Review examines each of these five initiatives. We give special emphasis to the technical initiatives (e.g., new process technology). Monsanto's first commercial process used hydrogen cyanide to make the key intermediate, iminodiacetic acid (IDA). Now, Monsanto has commercialized a new route, based on diethanolamine, to the IDA intermediate, We estimate the capital and operating costs for this new route to glyphosate in our process technology analysis.
Monsanto has reduced the U.S. price of glyphosate by about 8%/yr from 1985 through 1998. We estimate that process economics for the diethanolamine route permits even further price reductions.