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Will the Monsanto Tribunal create a better food system for all of us?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 7:18
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Last weekend (14th-16th of October 2016), farmers, scientists and activists from all over the world gathered at the Monsanto Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, to present the case against destruction caused by one of the corporate giants that promotes industrial farming.

 Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, 15 Oct, 2016. © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceMonsanto Tribunal in The Hague, 15 Oct, 2016

The symbolic Monsanto Tribunal aimed to hold Monsanto – the giant agrochemical company – to account for its alleged atrocities against humanity and the environment. This event is far from over. It will echo back through the food system as the tribunal’s participants bring home lessons, solutions and renewed hope for change.

First day of the tribunal, judges Tulkens (left) and Fall Epse Sow. 15 Oct 2016, © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceFirst day of the tribunal, judges Tulkens (left) and Fall Epse Sow. 15 Oct 2016

Five internationally renowned judges heard 30 witnesses. Experts gave their accounts of the environmental damage wrought by Monsanto. One testimony described how monoculture has caused a great loss to seed variety. They compared the patenting of seeds to a new form of colonization.

 Seng Channeang, Cambodian smallscale farmer. 15 Oct 2016, © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceSeng Channeang, Cambodian smallscale farmer. 15 Oct 2016

These testimonies will give people all over the world a well-documented legal brief to be used in lawsuits against other similar corporations.

“Although this is not legally binding, it is legally sound,” said Arnaud Apoteker, member of the steering committee of the Tribunal. “The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles.”

One of the thirty witnesses, Feliciano Ucam Poot, a Mayan farmer from Mexico, submitted evidence to support his allegations that glyphosate and other chemicals are linked to childrens’ sickness. He said, “before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this… A lot of people are suffering like us, and this Tribunal will ensure that our stories will be heard around the world.” 

 Scenes from the Monsanto Tribunal Press Conference, 15 Oct 2016. © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceScene from the Monsanto Tribunal Press Conference, 15 Oct 2016

Do we need these agrochemicals to feed the world? A question asked of Hans Herren, a renowned scientist and president of the Millennium Institute at the Monsanto Tribunal, “By producing less waste we can feed 10 million people. We need to make more health per acre, not calories per acre.”

Running parallel to the Tribunal hearings was a People’s Assembly, where people from around the world discussed solutions to the impacts caused by industrial agriculture. As many of the witnesses pointed out, one of the greatest challenges they face is to make their voices heard. This Assembly provided a much needed forum for communities to come together and find sustainable solutions to common problems.

 The People's Assembly, 15 Oct 2016 © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceThe People’s Assembly, The Hague. 15 Oct 2016

“We should fight for ourselves. Nobody is free from danger if our food is toxic,” said Farida Akhter of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives), Bangladesh.

The stories of people like Feliciano and the concerns of Farida are echoed by millions of voices from across the world; from beekeepers in Mexico to small scale producers in France and farmers in India.

The judges of the tribunal will assess these allegations, examine all evidence put forth and publish their findings in December.

 Judges at the Monsanto Tribunal, 15 Oct 2016. © Bas Beentjes / GreenpeaceJudges at the Monsanto Tribunal, 15 Oct 2016

These issues aren’t limited to farmers and environmentalists – they concern us all. We all have a choice: as citizens and consumers, we can all make decisions to shape the future we want.

Here are 12 things you can do to start Eco-Food revolution

Watcharapol Daengsubha is a food and ecological agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia


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