by Michelle Schoffro Cook
In an announcement made at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, Monsanto will stand trial for ecocide and crimes against humanity and nature. The trial will take place next year at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands on October 16, 2016 (incidentally and aptly, on World Food Day). Dozens of international food, agriculture and environmental justice groups, including: Millions against Monsanto, the Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International and IFOAM Organics International—an umbrella organization of over 800 affiliated organizations in 100 countries, are involved in the legal action.
The International Court of Justice’s role is to settle disputes, in accordance with international law, as well as to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred by authorized United Nations agencies. While the trial is still ten months away and the outcome to be determined by the Court, the announcement comes as a victory for many environmentalists and food activists who are making the ultimate stand against the practices of a company they deem unethical.
As part of the announcement Andre Leu, president of IFOAM boldly stated: “Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media.”
The announcement follows on the heels of a recent French court decision to charge Monsanto with chemical poisoning. Additionally, the World Health Organization declared earlier this year that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen”.
Monsanto’s flagship pesticide product known as “Roundup” contains glyphosate and is used in conjunction with the company’s own genetically-modified Roundup-Ready seeds (corn, soybeans and rapeseed). Even after the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency, the IARC, declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, Monsanto continues to hold onto its claim that “No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen.” Incidentally, California’s Environmental Protection Agency has also announced that it will label glyphosate as a “carcinogen” as part of its Proposition 65 involving a requirement that the state publish a list of products that cause cancer or birth defects.
But, the legal action was not initiated solely due to the company’s development of glyphosate. As part of its legal claims the dozens of groups taking a stand against Monsanto at the International Court of Justice are citing a lengthy history of toxic products developed by the company, including: PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls); 2,4,5 T (2,4, 5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid which is a component of Agent Orange) and Lasso (an herbicide banned in Europe).
Like many food activists, I’m hopeful that the public statement of physicist, author and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva foreshadows the court’s decision: “Monsanto has pushed GMOs in order to collect royalties from poor farmers, trapping them in unpayable debt, and pushing them to suicide. Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least 50 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Monsanto is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide.”
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