The Monsanto Tribunal is an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations and ecocide. Eminent judges heard testimonies from victims and experts. Then, they delivered a legal opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice (on April 18th 2017, The Hague).
They concluded that Monsanto’s activities have a negative impact on basic human rights. Besides, better regulations are needed to protect the victims of multinational corporations. Eventually, international law should be improved for better protection of the environment and include the crime of ecocide. Now, it is up to us, the civil society, to spread the conclusions of the Monsanto Tribunal and push for these essential changes.
Monsanto Company is a multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, and a leading producer of genetically engineered seed and Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide. Its past activities involved Agent Orange, herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, and the polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB).
The crime of ecocide is a crime of strict liability.
Under the proposed amendments of End Ecocide on Earth and the Ecocide Model Law of Polly Higgins, knowledge and intent are not required for the crime to be constituted, but can be referred to for sentencing purposes. The crime of ecocide is a crime of strict liability. However, it is important to understand this position.
The crime of ecocide as envisioned by EEE does not require knowledge or intent. The knowledge and intent of the defendant are irrelevant to the qualification of the crime of ecocide but would be considered in the determination of the appropriate sentencing. This means that an author could not exclude his/her responsibility by arguing he/she never intended to cause the damage, or did not have the knowledge that the dangerous product been used could have caused such damage. A person is said to have knowledge when this person has reason to know or should have known. The required knowledge should not be an actual knowledge but one relying on inherent danger or highly risky activities that would more likely cause the incriminated offense (crime of ecocide in our case).
Therefore, the author would be liable not for his intent or actual knowledge, but because he has reason to know or should have known that his actions could have caused the damages. The knowledge or the “reason to know” induce a general duty of care in the absence of which one should be liable for her/its “non-intentional” action that has caused significant and durable damage to part or system of the global common or to an ecological system relied upon by any human population or sub-population.
The general principles embodied by the amendments proposed by End Ecocide sustain precisely this consideration.
2.1.2 General principle embodied
With regard to the principles embodied by the proposed ecocide law proposal, the liability for the crime of ecocide is carried out by considering, among other, a general duty of care and the precautionary principle. An operator or individual owe a duty of care when undertaking an activity that may potentially undermine the wellbeing, or diminish the peaceful enjoyment by inhabitant. And according to the precautionary principle, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environment degradation, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage.
Three elements should then be considered when determining the liability of an author:
- the defendant owes a general duty of care;
- the defendant has (not) taken reasonable standard of care or acted with prudence in carrying out or omitting to carry out the activities that have caused the damages; and
- the damage caused was reasonably foreseeable as result of actions or omissions.
The foreseeability element implies respect for the general duty of care or the obligation of vigilance, and the precautionary principle embodied by the EEE amendments proposal. Under this circumstance, the occurrence or manifestation of damages is generally the proof that a reasonable due care was breached. However, in some cases, the liability is retained regardless of the author’s performance of reasonable care. This is the case when the activities undertaken by their authors are dangerous. Under the European Commission (EC) Directive 2004/35/EC, 5 operators carrying out dangerous activities and listed in Annex III of the directive fall under strict liability.6
Genetically modified organisms are classified as dangerous activities under the aforesaid Annex III.7 Therefore, the occurrence of damages resulting from the manipulation or dissemination of GMOs is sufficient to establish liability.
2.2.1. Ecocide Law and Monsanto present activities
184.108.40.206. Genetically Modified Organism:
a. Toxicity and irremediable impact on the ecosystems and living organisms
- Many studies have shown that long term exposure to pollen from GM insect resistant maize causes adverse effects on the behavior9 and survival10 of the monarch butterfly.
- Studies also found that Bt crops secrete toxins from their roots into the soil,11 and other (Saxena et al.,) observed that toxins in Bt crops persist in the soil for 234 days, allowing the toxins to keep their insecticidal characteristics and, thus, preventing them from being degraded by soil microbes.12 The accumulation of toxins, released into the soil as farmers incorporate plant material into the ground after harvest, has the potential to create serious environmental and health problems in the future.13
- an experiment performed at Cornell University showed that large amounts of pollen from Bt corn… could kill larvae…”14.
b. Allergenicity, and antibiotic resistance, and impacts on human health
- Since GM pest-resistant are designed to be toxic to the target organisms, studies found that their potential adverse effect on human health is of obvious concern.15
- Although some studies have reported no adverse effects of toxic protein Bt on human health, because the mode of toxicity to insects may not be relevant to human exposures, 16 other scientists have shown that genetic engineering techniques produce resistant genes that express toxic proteins at higher levels than naturally occurring in host plants, and food plants containing such genes could pose a risk to human health.17
- With regard to the allerginicity, even though no harm has yet been reported, the use of genetic engineering in seeds or plants grown for human consumption does pose potential risks to human health.18 These risks include the possibility that the plants may produce new allergens or toxins, or unexpectedly increased levels of naturally occurring toxicants or allergens found in crops.19
- A primary concern with food allergies is that genetically engineered encoded proteins are of unknown allergenicity, and an allergic reaction can be life threatening.20 Food allergies are a very complex health problem because any protein can trigger an immune response.21
- Although the gene coding for antibiotic in a plant variety that has been isolated and reproduced no longer perform any useful function, the GM plants instead continue to produce the antibiotic resistance enzyme, and anyone who eats the plants will consume the enzyme as well.22 Indeed, the enzyme could deactivate the same antibiotic in human beings, thus reducing the drug therapeutic value to persons who consume the GM food.23
c. Gene pollution, contamination, and loss of biological diversity
- When genetically modified organisms are allowed to breed with the non-genetically engineered organisms, they can pollute them, and therefore affect the whole ecological system.24 Pollution can easily happen accidentally through pollination, when wind, insects, and other natural vectors are the channel of the cross pollination.
- Over the past decades, many organic farmers have been systematically contaminated and this situation puts the genetic biodiversity at serious risk. The decreased biodiversity increases vulnerability of crops to disease and pests, meaning that a single blight or pest could potentially decimate hundreds of thousands of acres of crops.25 This situation leads to crop failure and subsequently induces loss of economic benefit, starvation, and affect the wellbeing of small holder farmers’ families.
d. Witnesses statements and evidences:
Conclusion on Genetically Modified Organisms
- The serious environmental and health problems resulting from genetically engineering organism would likely undermine or create a risk of undermining the well-being of the human population.
- Monsanto should have known or has reason to know, based on different scientific studies, that there is high likelihood that their activities/actions would have caused these serious environmental and health damages.
- In case of doubt about these scientific studies, the precautionary principle (embodied by the ecocide amendment) provides that the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environment degradation, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage.
- ** Another demonstration of the ecocide crime here would be on the nature of GMOs, which are dangerous products/activities per se, leading to the application of the strict liability rule. According to the European Commission (EC) Directive 2004/35/EC,26 operators carrying out dangerous activities and listed in Annex III of the directive fall under strict liability. 27 Genetically modified organisms are classified as dangerous activities under the aforesaid Annex III.28 It results that the occurrence of damages arising from the manipulation or dissemination of GMOs is sufficient to establish liability. Monsanto is liable for the crime of ecocide on that basis because it has manipulated and/or disseminated GMOs, dangerous product per se, that present a high likelihood of undermining or creating a risk of undermining the continuing survival or the well-being of a population, or the peaceful enjoyment by inhabitant.
From the Complicit Y In War Crimes As Defined In Article 8(2) Of The International Criminal Court by Dr Jackson Maogoto,
- In 2014, a Committee of the United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that there was sufficient evidence of an association of several cancers and other medical conditions linked to exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. This was after examining overtime more than 230 epidemiological studies in detail on a range of health problems and their possible association with herbicides. It found sufficient evidence of a statistical association between exposures to herbicides or dioxin among which included soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s disease. The committee also found sufficient evidence of an association between herbicides or dioxin and chloracne and Porphyria Cutanea Tarda (PCT)
- It is recognised that birth defects in Children associated with individuals exposed to Agent Orange (American and Vietnamese) include: Spina bifida —a defect in the developing foetus that results in incomplete closing of the spine, is associated with Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during qualifying service in Vietnam or Korea.
- There a direct relationship exists between exposure and numerous health problems. If not the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs would not have decided to provide compensation to nearly two thousand veterans who served in Vietnam suffering from ailments/medical conditions associated to exposure to Agent Orange. Equally it should be noted that the various chemical companies that manufactured the agents settled a class-action lawsuit out of court that provided almost $200 million in damages to U.S. veterans who served in Vietnam during the period. No similar scheme exists for those most affected by permanent exposure — the Vietnamese.
PART V CONCLUSION
That same death sentence that those were given decades ago has been passed from generation to generation. Agent Orange is a generational serial killer. Agent Orange stores itself in the fatty tissue of the primary person exposed and then is thought to mutate the DNA of the conceived child causing many of the same birth defects, diseases, illnesses and ultimately deaths, as are seen in generations of Vietnamese. Hundreds of thousands globally have died and will continue to die drastically before the average human lifespan.
For the last 50 years, Monsanto has gotten away with this crime. The company that dominates global food supply is a very successful commercially entity but also a successful murderer deserving to be tried and convicted. Monsanto will tell you that they were contracted by the United States Government and therefore should have no accountability for the travesties created by Agent Orange. In fact, as the largest producer of Agent Orange, Monsanto themselves knew that the chemical was deadly.
Besides, even in the worst case scenario. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there might be serious danger to humans if they are coming into contact with a chemical that turned lush green jungles into barren wastelands in a matter of hours.
Find below all the additional information related to:
- Legal opinion – full report and summary of the judges‘ conclusions
- Video testimonies – videos from the hearings of experts, victims, lawyers
- Written submissions – texts submitted by the experts, victims, lawyers
- Programme of the hearings
- Monsanto Tribunal – why and how?
Françoise Tulkens, the Chair of the Monsanto Tribunal, explains the importance of the legal opinion of the Monsanto Tribunal.
Witnesses and experts
Submissions (texts and pictures) from the witnesses, experts and lawyers of the Monsanto Tribunal, ca be downloaded using the links below.
Farida Akhter (En)
Policy analyst, Bangladesh
Krishan Bir Chaudhary (En)
Scientist and farmer, India
Peter Clausing (En)
Appendix: Memorandom PAN-Germany (EN) “Regulatory agencies (BfR, EFSA) used biased arguments to deny the carcinogenicity of glyphosate”
Art Dunham (En)
- Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup on Human Placental Cells and Aromatase (EN) Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005 June
- Environmental factors in the etiology of esophageal atresia and congenital diaphragmatic hernia: results of a casecontrol study (EN) Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2008 Feb
- Glyphosate-Based Herbicides ProduceTeratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling (EN), Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2010, 23
- Primer Informe de comision provincial de investigacion de contaminantes del agua, Resistencia, Chaco, Abril de 2010 (ES)
Don Huber (En)
Channa Jayasumana (En)
Expert environmental health, Sri Lanka
Timothy Litzenburg (En)
Pedro Pablo Mutumbajoy (En) // Pedro Pablo Mutumbajoy (Es)
Farmer and victim of Plan Colombia, Colombia
Appendix: The Health Consequences of Aerial Spraying of Illicit Crops: The Case of Colombia, Center for Global Development, June 2015 (EN)
Ib Borup Pederson (En)
Hog farmer, Denmark
Appendixes: Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture, Aarhus University, Memorandum on “The feeding of genetically modified glyphosate resistant soy products to livestock”, Feb 2014
Danish programme referring to the results of the study conducted on his farm.
Claire Robinson (En)
Academic Researcher, United Kingdom
Kolon Saman (En)
Farmer, Sri Lanka
Gilles Eric Seralini (En)
Biologist, academic Researcher, France
Christine Sheppard (En)
Victim RoundUp, USA
- Lawyers of the Monsanto Tribunal