A people's tribunal against biotechnology giant Monsanto began Friday in The Hague, with representatives from hundreds of organizations coming together to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and ecocide.
“If Mother Earth could speak, Monsanto ought to be in jail long before now,” said Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian representative, during the opening press conference at the people's assembly. "We are supporting the tribunal because this is a struggle, not just against one multinational corporation, it’s a struggle for life, a struggle for liberty, a struggle to stop big companies from colonizing our food systems.”
Monsanto currently has a monopoly on the world agricultural market and now produces 80 percent of the world's genetically modified corn and 93 percent of genetically modified soy. Monsanto’s GMO crops have affected the livelihoods of agricultural communities around the world by threatening native crops and biodiversity.
“GMO crops are the height of scientific illiteracy: pests and weeds develop resistance – it’s just evolution ... All GMOs have done is to increase the load of toxins in our food,” said Dr. Vandana Shiva, an Indian Scientist at the assembly.
In a statement ahead of the event, Shiva referred to the GMO industry as the “Poison Cartel,” which in India has “driven millions off the land and pushed 300,000 farmers to suicide due to debt for costly seeds and chemicals.”
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“We have the right to eat safe food. If governments aren’t ready to defend that right, we have to do it ourselves,” explained progressive German politician Renate Künast.
Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser addressed the assembly detailing years of harassment and extortion by “Monsanto’s Police” toward local farmers. The People's Assembly also discussed political strategies for lobbying and campaigning against Monsanto and how to create a better future for affected communities and ecosystems.
Using the procedures of the International Court of Justice, “The Monsanto Tribunal” will give an advisory opinion after hearing victim testimonies. Five judges will start hearing evidence on Saturday from 30 Monsanto victims, a minuscule percentage of total victims.
Angelica Ek and Feliciano Ucan represent Mayan beekeepers from the Campeche and Yucatan Regions in Mexico. They are currently in the Hague to testify before the tribunal. They will explain how Monsanto products approved by the Mexican government have adversely affected local communities and bee populations.
“We are defending something that is ours, we are defending the natural resources,” explained Leydi Pech Martin, a member of the collective fighting against Monsanto, in an interview from 2015.
The tribunal will run until Sunday and will be live-streamed via the tribunal’s website. Around US$552,000 has been crowdfunded to hold the event.