Although Monsanto was once the exclusive U.S.-based provider of white phosphorous to the U.S. government, Israel Chemicals, Ltd. has started supplying the deadly munition as well.
White phosphorous is created from phosphorous through industrial processes — it is not a naturally occurring substance. Exposure can cause severe and often fatal burns, or other complications such as organ failure, with even survivors suffering from long-term health effects.
In addition to its use in weapons, white phosphorous is also used to create phosphoric acid, a key ingredient in some fertilizers, which likely explains why Monsanto would manufacture the substance.
At one point, Monsanto was the only U.S.-based firm manufacturing the substance. This, of course, caught the military’s attention.
According to heavily redacted government documents revealed by the blog Current Events Inquiry, the U.S. government saw Monsanto as a key supplier, fearing that global politics might interfere with the ability to import the substance from China or India, where most white phosphorous is manufactured due to flimsy environmental protections and oversight. The documents, originally posted on the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website, state that because of this key role, Monsanto could require special government protections “in the event of a national emergency.”