Yesterday in The Hague the verdict of the International Monsanto Tribunal was finally delivered: the company’s activity has infringed on fundamental human rights.
Composed by the judges Dior Fall Snow (Senegal), Jorge Fernández Souza (Mexico), Eleonora Lamm (Argentina) and Steven Shrybman (Canada) e presided over by Judge Françoise Tulkens, former president of the European Court of Human Rights, the International Monsanto Tribunal has responded at length to the six questions which it was called upon to deliberate.
Monsanto, which chose not to appear before the Court, has been found first and foremost of guilty of obstructing the right to live in a healthy environment, the right to food sovereignty, food security, and the right to physical, mental and social health in the countries where its products are used. What’s more, through its aggressive commercial approach, fierce lobbying and discrediting and intimidation of researchers and academics opposed to it, according to the Court, the company obstructs free and independent scientific research into its practices, thereby infringing on the right to freedom of information.
Elsewhere, the Tribunal did not officially condemn the company for complicity in war crimes, but declared that it is implicitly complicity insofar as it knew the intentions of its customers for certain products (for example, Agent Orange), and what the effects of those products would be if deliberately used against humans. In this regard, the Court reaffirmed that international law must protect the environment and combat the destruction of ecosystems, concluding that if ecocide were recognized as a crime in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could be denounced as such.
“It is fundamental,” concluded the Tribunal, “that human and environmental rights take precedent over any and all economic interests. If such priorities are not recognized, the enormous gap between the protection of commercial interests and human rights, biodiversity and the environment will continue to grow. It is necessary that companies like Monsanto be held criminally liable for their actions, and that they be called to trial where fundamental rights are violated.”
Monsanto, the world leader in the production of genetically-modified organisms, as well as the largest producer of conventional seeds, is one of the most controversial companies in the history of industry. Yesterday’s verdict is the latest in a long line of international recognitions of its questionable activities: from its foundation, the multinational based in St. Louis has been the subject of numerous trials for negligence fraud, causation of ecological and health disasters as well as the use of false evidence.
“The verdict of the International Monsanto Tribunal,” says Ursula Hudson, President of Slow Food Germany, “signals an important moment in the history of human rights. This exemplary trial contributes to the creation of mechanisms that allow us to define new legal concepts such as ecocide, by which we mean the destruction of all forms of life: human, animal and vegetable, guaranteeing victims the possibility of justice. The history of Monsanto is a paradigm of the impunity of agrochemical multinationals, that damage food sovereignty and ecosystems with their products. So naturally, the mergers between these corporate giants give us cause to worry, as they exacerbate the negative impacts of the industrial food system.”
In an open letter to the European Commission and the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, Slow Food, together with over 200 other organizations, asked politicians to block mergers between agribusiness giants. These mergers are the preface to an unacceptable monopolization and could give rise to companies that control 70% of the global agrochemical market and 60% of the commercial seed market-
On 16 and 17 October 2016, more than 30 witnesses and experts from all over the world gathered in The Hague for the Monsanto Tribunal. They presented their testimonies and analyses on the effects of Monsanto’s business practices to a panel of 5 judges from different continents. The combined material of the witnesses and experts on the damage caused by Monsanto was so extensive that the judges have dedicated the eighteen weeks that elapsed since the civil society tribunal to carefully consider and evaluate it all.