After hearings 6 months ago, the Monsanto tribunal, a symbolic international group created to assess information on accusations surrounding the GMO and pesticide giant, issued its findings last week in a public presentation in The Hague. Monsanto has drawn strong criticism from around the world, and recently there were international studies showing the carcinogenic nature of their best-selling pesticide Roundup, also known as glyphosate.
In the past, Monsanto also helped contribute to atomic bomb research and was one of the several companies that produced Agent Orange, which was used to deforest large sections of Vietnam during the U.S. invasion of the country. Agent Orange caused half a million Vietnamese children to be born with deformities and poisoned over 3 million people. Agent Orange is still used as a pesticide for genetically modified (GM) corn in the US, according to Mint Press News.
MPN continued, Monsanto’s business model for the dissemination of its biotech products has created untold suffering around the world, particularly in India. After genetically modified crops were introduced in the country in 2002, poor Indian farmers became trapped in vicious debt cycles after adopting GM seeds and herbicides. In 2009, the number of GM-debt related suicides was so high that an Indian farmer was estimated to commit suicide every 30 minutes. The situation in India has been seen repeated in several other countries, but Monsanto has yet to be held accountable.
The tribunal says Monsanto can change that, and needs to change that. The tribunal was formed “to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide,” and is composed of well-known agricultural activists and related experts. They originally asked six questions:
- Did Monsanto violate “the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as recognized in international human rights law” through its activities?
- Did Monsanto violate “the right to food, as recognized in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”?
- Did Monsanto violate “the right to the highest attainable standard of health”?
- Did Monsanto violate “the freedom indispensable for scientific research” and “the freedoms of thought and expression”?
- Was Monsanto “complicit in the commission of a war crime” by providing the U.S. with Agent Orange and other chemicals during the Vietnam War?
- 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 tribunal’s recently released advisory opinion was issued by a panel of five judges of several nationalities – representing Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Mexico and Senegal – who were all “legal professionals or practicing judges called upon to render an advisory opinion on the basis of a legal analysis and reasoning.”
The judges offered four conclusive opinions regarding Monsanto’s activities, finding that Monsanto had “negatively affected” the right to food, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and the freedom indispensable for scientific research.
They did not provide an answer for Monsanto’s complicity in past war crimes, saying no “relevant evidence has been provided before the tribunal in this respect.” The issue of ecocide was also not addressed, as it is not considered to be an international crime.
While the tribunal did issue several condemnations of Monsanto’s current and past activities, the organization itself is purely symbolic, as the tribunal did not file a legal complaint against Monsanto. Instead, the tribunal stated that they were merely seeking to analyze the controversial company’s actions against the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, ultimately providing an “opinion based exclusively on legal consideration, grounded in international human rights law.” They asserted that opinion tribunals “have had a considerable impact” and that “they contribute to the progressive development of international law.”
Monsanto issued a statement following the release of the tribunal’s conclusions, basically saying the tribunal was just a staged event with a predetermined outcome decided by enemies of progress.
You may have seen a press release today that highlights an Advisory Opinion on the “Monsanto Tribunal.” We stand committed to real dialogue with those who are genuinely interested in sustainable agriculture; human rights to food, health and a safe environment; who we are and what we do. The original event was staged by a select group of anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics who played organizers, judge and jury. It denied existing scientific evidence and judicial outcomes on several topics; and was organized with a pre-determined outcome. The opinion – characterized by the Tribunal panel itself as advisory only – was the anticipated next communication from this group.
Please check out the tribunal’s webpage for more information on their findings. This is a serious issue that needs cooperation from both sides of the battlefield to find a solution. Monsanto saying anyone that criticizes them is an anti-agriculture technology liar is not a healthy way to approach the issue and will only lead to more problems in the future.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)