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News > World

Monsanto Tribunal Delivers Legal Opinion: Does Monsanto Abuse Human Rights, Is It Guilty of Ecocide?

  • (L-R) Judges Orellana, Lamm, Shrybman, Tulkens, Dior Fall Sow and Fernandez Souza present the legal opinion on Monsanto's crimes.

    (L-R) Judges Orellana, Lamm, Shrybman, Tulkens, Dior Fall Sow and Fernandez Souza present the legal opinion on Monsanto's crimes. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 April 2017

The tribunal found the multinational guilty of a number of environmental and human rights abuses.

The legal findings of a civil society trial on whether Monsanto is guilty of ecocide, subsequently fostering human rights abuses, were delivered in the Hague Tuesday.

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Initial hearings of the international tribunal occurred on October 15 and 16 in 2016 at the Institute of Social Studies, ISS. Over the past months, five internationally renowned judges heard 30 witnesses and experts from five continents speak on the subject.

Monsanto critics claim that the trial, albeit void of legal standing, adds sustenance to the debate on ecocide and how this man-made phenomenon infringes upon our human rights.

On the question of whether Monsanto's business activities infringe on the right to a clean, sustainable environment, as recognized by international human rights law, the court found the defendant guilty. As outlined in the Summary of the Advisory Opinion of the International Monsanto Tribunal, the court concluded that Monsanto has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment.

The second question pertained to Monsanto's infringement on the right to food, which also referenced U.N. articles and conventions upholding the rights of children, the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and economic, social, and cultural rights. Responding to this inquiry the tribunal found Monsanto guilty. The company's business activities were found to adversely affect food availability for individuals and communities and interfere with the ability of individuals and communities to feed themselves directly or to choose non-genetically modified seeds.

The tribunal found Monsanto highly negligent in its inquiry into the company's infringement on the public's right to high standards of health. To support their conclusion the tribunal emphasized that the company manufactured and distributed many dangerous substances such as PCBs, (persistent organic pollutants), glyphosate (an ingredient which has been classified as "probably carcinogenic" by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer and widely used in the commercialization of Roundup), and lastly, but certainly not least, GMOs.

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Whether Monsanto infringes on the freedom of scientific research, as well as the freedom of thought and expression, the tribunal concluded that the multinational firm was guilty. Monsanto, in fact, practices forms of intimidation, discredits independent scientific research that supports environmental protection and public health policies, and pressures governments to conform to its business model and policies.

The fifth question concerned Monsanto's complicity in war crimes during the U.S. War of Aggression Against Vietnam. During this period (1962–1973), over 70 million liters of Agent Orange (containing dioxin) was deposited on roughly 2.6 million hectares of land, causing severe health problems in the Vietnamese civilian population. That chemical also harmed U.S., Australian, New Zealand, and Korean vets resulting in litigation implicating Monsanto's involvement in the war. However, the tribunal did not give a definitive response to this inquiry, only stating that Monsanto probably knew how its products would be used and had prior knowledge of the product's health consequences.

On the sixth and final question, the tribunal concluded that if ecocide were recognized as a crime by international criminal law, Monsanto would possibly be found guilty. Having reached this conclusion the court assessed that the crime of ecocide should be precisely and clearly defined and asserted by international criminal law.

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