Quantcast
Food

6 Questions for Monsanto

By Katherine Paul

Monsanto may not be the largest company in the world. Or the worst. But the St. Louis, Missouri, biotech giant has become the poster child for all that's wrong with our industrial food and farming system.

With 21,000 employees in 66 countries and $15 billion in revenue, Monsanto is a biotech industry heavyweight. The monopolizer of seeds is the poster child for an industry that is the source of at least one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and is largely responsible for the depletion of soil, water and biodiversity. Not to mention the company's marginalization—and sometimes terrorization—of millions of small farmers.

Since the early 20th century, Monsanto has marketed highly toxic products that have contaminated the environment and permanently sickened or killed thousands of people around the world.

The most toxic of its products include:

PCBs: one of the 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which affect human and animal fertility

2,4,5 T (2,4-D): a component of Agent Orange containing dioxin which was used by the US military during the Vietnam war and continues to be a major cause of birth defects and cancers

Lasso: an herbicide now banned in Europe

Roundup: the most widely used herbicide in the world, and cause of one of the biggest health and environmental tragedies in modern history. This highly toxic weed killer, sprayed on genetically modified or GMO crops including soybeans, corn and rapeseed for animal feed or for the production of biofuels, was recently classified as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

In a rare exception, Monsanto was recently ordered to pay $46.5 million to compensate victims of its PCB poisoning. Sometimes the company settles out of court, to avoid having to admit to any “wrongdoing."

But for the most part, thanks to the multinational's powerful influence over U.S. politicians, Monsanto has been able to poison with impunity.

It's time for the citizens of the world to fight back. On Oct. 15-16, in The Hague, Netherlands—the International City of Peace and Justice—a panel of distinguished international judges will hear testimony from witnesses, represented by legitimate lawyers, who have been harmed by Monsanto.

A press conference Dec. 3, 2015 in Paris during COP21 announcing the International Monsanto Tribunal. © Solène Charrasse

In their preparation for the citizens' tribunal, and during witness testimony, the judges will consider six questions that are relevant not just in relation to Monsanto, but to all companies involved in shaping the future of agriculture.

The six questions are:

1. Right to a healthy environment: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as recognized in international human rights law (Res. 25/21 of the Human Rights Council, of 15 April 2014), taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

2. Right to food: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to food, as recognized in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in Articles 24.2(c) and (e) and 27.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in Articles 25(f) and 28.1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

3. Right to health: Did the firm Monsanto violate, by its activities, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, as recognized in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or the right of child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, as recognized by Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

4. Freedom of expression and academic research: Did the firm Monsanto violate the freedom indispensable for scientific research, as guaranteed by Article 15(3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the freedoms of thought and expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, taking into account the responsibilities imposed on corporations by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011?

5. Complicity in war crimes: Is the firm Monsanto complicit in the commission of a war crime, as defined in Article 8(2) of the International Criminal Court, by providing materials to the United States Army in the context of operation "Ranch Hand" launched in Viet Nam in 1962?

6. Ecocide: Could the past and present activities of Monsanto constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely?

The citizens' tribunal judges will not have the power to adopt binding decisions. But they will issue opinions which will provide victims and their legal counsel the arguments and legal grounds for further lawsuits against Monsanto within their national jurisdictions.

Throughout history, citizens' tribunals have been an effective tool for highlighting the need to change international law so that victims of transnational companies have a means to legal redress. They are most successful when they are able to attract media attention, and are endorsed and supported by millions of citizens throughout the world.

If you would like to endorse the International Monsanto Tribunal and follow its progress, sign on here. To submit witness testimony, email claims (at) Monsanto-tribunal.org. You can also support the tribunal financially.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

EU Commission Backs Down on Long-Term Glyphosate Approval, Seeks Last Minute Extension

Glyphosate Found in Urine of 93 percent of Americans Tested

The Superbug Doctors Have Been Dreading Is Now in the U.S.

Taiwan Recalls Quaker Oats Products Imported From U.S. After Detecting Glyphosate

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular

12 Great Summertime Reads

Summer is a time for escape reading. But that designation need not be limited to fiction; books written for the general reader on topics outside one's area of expertise can also provide passage to exciting new places. This month's bookshelf includes six non-fiction titles, five novels and one collection of short stories. The last three titles are now in paperback, suitable for a vacation or some beach time. Good reading to you!

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

Cosmos Offers Clues to the Fate of Humans on Earth

By Marlene Cimons

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees climate change through a cosmic lens. He believes our present civilization isn't the first to burn up its resources—and won't be the last. Moreover, he thinks it's possible the same burnout fate already might have befallen alien worlds. That's why he says the current conversation about climate change is all wrong. "We shouldn't be talking about saving the planet, because the Earth will go on without us," he said. "We should be talking about saving ourselves."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Chicago skyline on April 20, 2017. Chris Favero / CC BY-SA 2.0

Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth

By Dipika Kadaba

The amount of artificial lighting is steadily increasing every year around the planet. It's a cause for celebration in remote villages in Africa and the Indian sub-continent that recently gained access to electricity for the first time, but it is also harming the health and well-being of residents of megacities elsewhere that continue to get bigger and brighter every year.

Health impacts of this artificial illumination after daylight hours range from depression to cancer, including a range of sleep disorders.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
velkr0 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Texas Supreme Court Rules Cities Cannot Ban Plastic Bags

The Texas Supreme Court struck down the city of Laredo's plastic bag ban—a decision that will likely overturn similar bans in about a dozen other cities, including Austin, Fort Stockton and Port Aransas.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Ryan Zinke visits Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota on May 25. Sherman Hogue / U.S. Dept. of the Interior

Report: Trump Admin. Suppressing Media Access of Government Scientists

A new Trump administration protocol requires U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists to run interview requests with the Department of the Interior, its parent agency, before speaking to journalists, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move is a departure from past media practices that allowed government scientists to quickly respond to journalists' inquiries, according to unnamed USGS employees interviewed by the Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Icebergs calving from an ice shelf in West Antarctica. NASA / GSFC / Jefferson Beck / CC BY-SA 2.0

Good News From Antarctica: Rising Bedrock Could Save Vulnerable Ice Sheet

After last week's disturbing news that ice melt in Antarctica has tripled in the last five years, another study published Thursday offers some surprising good news for the South Pole and its vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).

The study, published in Science by an international research team, found that the bedrock below the WAIS is rising, a process known as "uplift," at record rates as melting ice removes weight, potentially stabilizing the ice sheet that scientists feared would be lost to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO
Soybeans with cupped leaves, a symptom of dicamba injury. University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Dicamba Damage Roars Back for Third Season in a Row

University weed scientists have reported roughly 383,000 acres of soybean injured by a weedkiller called dicamba so far in 2018, according to University of Missouri plant sciences professor, Kevin Bradley.

Dicamba destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered (GE) to resist it. The drift-prone chemical can be picked up by the wind and land on neighboring non-target fields. Plants exposed to the chemical are left wrinkled, cupped or stunted in growth.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Memphis Meats

FDA Takes First Steps to Regulating Lab-Grown Meat

By Dan Nosowitz

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—has long been enticing for its potential environmental, social and economic benefits.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!