Are labels applied to Monsanto such as ‘the face of corporate evil’ and the promoter of ‘ecocide’ really so unfair? After the toxic and carcinogic effects of Agent Orange, DDT and more recently Roundup (not to mention dioxin, aspartames, styrofoam, PCBs and glyphosate in other forms), what else could Monsanto do to really poison nature, people and their food production? As the world corporate leader also in ‘genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds’ do either the Monsanto executives and scientists really know what they are doing or really care beyond profits over people and nature? Why would Bayer want to change Monsanto’s name after recently buying the company for $63 billion (Is Bayer any better)? Is there any chance there is an innocent explanation for a judge last week getting cold feet ‘at the last moment in the case of a jury finding Roundup caused a man’s cancer (ok, representing the many anonymous millions also effected) and ordering Monsanto to pay him US$289 million?
Monsanto has long had a reputation as a corporate bully as well as ‘crook’ [or even ‘the face of corporate evil’ (1)], so it should be no surprise that at the last moment in an imminent historical case on the toxic damage to humans caused by Roundup the Judge in the case got ‘cold feet’ (1). If you were not aware of it, Roundup is the most common anti-weed pesticide you can still buy at Bunnings or other such stores (2). But in 2015 the World Health Organisation classified glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans? (3). And since then Monsanto has been ordered to pay US$289 million dollars to school groundskeeper with cancer after the jury ‘found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life’. (4).
When it comes to poisoning not only people but naturally fertile lands Monsanto has ‘history’. They were the producers of Agent Orange in the Vietnam war – which is said to have been responsible for 400,000 deaths, 500,000 birth defects and is still causing carnage as Vietnam still tries to decontaminate affected areas even today (5). Monsanto also produced DDT which was the focus of Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ which first made people aware of how they (and nature) were being poisoned en masse by the use and abuse of herbicides and pesticides. Carson was viciously attacked for speaking a truth now generally accepted, and in similar fashion to those dishonestly attacked by tobacco companies for pointing out an ‘inconvenient truth’. In the landmark court-case referred to above, we had the jury acknowledge the evidence to show how the active component of Roundup (glyphosate – sold in more than 500 products sold in Australia currently) is sufficiently linked to cancer (6). Worse than this is the evidence of how Monsanto has longed tried to cover up cancer concerns about its products including Roundup/glyphosate (7).
Roundup is used by commercial farmers as well as garden enthusiasts to mainly kill weeds (although it kills all plants used on). Many farmers and gardeners have become dependent on Roundup and are challenging the ruling (8). However, as well as the world’s most profitable herbicide today, Roundup also indirectly lead to Monsanto being the world leader also in genetically modified seeds – when it focused on genetic modification to make seeds and plants ‘Roundup ready’ (and farmers increasingly reliant on purchasing seeds from Monsanto rather than reproduce naturally (9). It thus continues to epitomize a destructive reliance on both pesticides and artificial fertilisers that temporarily fuelled the ‘green revolution’ over previous decades. We say temporarily as there is growing evidence that the green revolution has ultimately had destructive and non-sustainable effects on soils and farming in many places. This is something I had a direct experience in being involved in a project in the Mt Arayat area of the Philippines where the evidence is hard to ignore, and where people are seeking to return to traditional methods of organic rejuvenation of soils (such as ‘green manures’) ( 10).
Monsanto still has a troubled relation with scientists as it does not seem to have any real commitment to independent testing of its products (11). And it certainly has a trouble relation to justice. This is exemplified by how after initially providing direction to the jurors who effectively found Roundup guilty of causing cancer (and Monsanto effectively guilty of lying and deceiving), the judge in the case seems to be in the process of throwing out their unanimous judgement (12). There are plenty of precedents in the US as well as elsewhere in the world of how supposedly independent judges can also be corrupted by rich and powerful profiteering corporations at the expense of people and their health as well as the truth.
When the history of the planet is written in the future we can be confident that the name Monsanto will indeed likely be remembered as truly ‘the face of corporate evil’ … for poisoning people and their lands around the world, and for corrupting related sciences with their contempt for truth and greed for profits as well as disregard for human health.