The fraud and corruption witnessed in the illegal introduction of Bt cotton in India are now being repeated with GM mustard. Farmers and our biodiversity were sacrificed for Monsanto’s profits.
Monsanto has been found guilty of “ecocide”
La Monsanto è stata giudicata colpevole di “ecocidio” secondo l’International Monsanto tribunal, un tribunale creato dalla società civile per fare pressione sulla multinazionale chimica.
Monsanto is guilty. This is the latest verdict of the International Monsanto Tribunal, an international civil society initiative aimed at trying the activities of agrochemical giant Monsanto. The company specialising in agricultural biotechnologies, such as GM seeds and phytosanitary products, has been found guilty of human rights violation, including the right to food and health and the right to a healthy environment. Also, Monsanto’s conduct has negatively affected scientists’ right to freedom for scientific research. Five judges of the (non-binding) Monsanto tribunal have presented their conclusions on 18 April at The Hague, in the Netherlands, calling on the agrochemical giant to adopt important changes to comply with international law.
What is the International Monsanto Tribunal
The International Monsanto Tribunal is a civil society initiative aimed at assessing and raising the awareness of people, governments and international organisations on the health and environmental damages caused by the US multinational, recently acquired by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer. The trial was held on 15 and 16 October 2016, but conclusions have been released on 18 April in order to allow the five judges to re-elaborate declarations from experts and 30 international witnesses. The Monsanto Tribunal also aims to create a precedent that could be of help to people suing Monsanto or other agrochemical companies. Despite the precedent isn’t legal, the Tribunal aims to create a mechanism that allows the compensation of victims.
One of the main charges against Monsanto is the threats it poses to biodiversity, which has been heavily affected by the increasing number of farmers using the same GM seeds created by Monsanto. “By reducing crop biodiversity and local plants, Monsanto has interfered with the right to food and is moreover aggravating the risks of food security and undermining the resilience of local food production systems,” reads the report.
Another charge, presented by many direct witnesses, is the impact of GM-seeds on the rights of farmers. For instance, those who refused to buy the seeds marketed by Monsanto had their fields polluted anyway and were prevented from certifying their crops as organic. These lands, indeed, have been affected by an uncontrolled use of herbicides, such as glyphosate, in nearby areas.
In some cases, farmers were even forced to pay property rights: “Furthermore, Monsanto has aggressively pursued intimidation tactics that have damaged the fabric of communities and caused great anxiety and mental affliction”. According to judges, such practices “are in contradiction with the principle of human right to food which guarantees access to nutrition, the basic need for every human to exist”.
Towards the recognition of the crime of ecocide
According to the five judges, the activities of Monsanto can constitute a crime of ecocide (if such a crime were recognized in international criminal law). The term is used to define the loss of biodiversity and natural ecosystems, as well as the damages caused to people’s health. To sum up, Monsanto’s ecocide includes the large-scale introduction of harmful chemical substances and the production of genetically modified organisms, which expose people to risks like an increase in insecticides and herbicides, such as glyphosate, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), banned by the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
The right to scientific research is also at risk
Monsanto has also negatively affected the freedom of conducting scientific research, a right close to the freedom of thought and expression. According to witnesses, the multinational operated “to discredit and shut down scientific research and debate that threaten its commercial interests, promoting weak regulatory processes, and using bullying and illicit tactics to pressure countries to permit the marketing of its products. In the result, sound scientific inquiry and debate is undermined or silenced, with the consequent effect of increasing risks to health and the environment”.
Sign the petition to stop glyphosate
Despite these activities have been carried out thanks to the voluntary work of civil society, it should be noted that the precautionary principle is in force on an international level. The principle allows taking action to safeguard the environment in the presence of clear threats, even in the absence of scientific consensus. For this, it’s crucial signing and taking part in the European Citizens Initiative to ask to ban, once and for all, glyphosate in the European Union. Even if scientific studies disagree about the carcinogenity of glyphosate, acting in advance could be crucial for our health. Just like it happened with DDT in the 1970’s. The petition against glyphosate requires 1 million signatures to be valid. 700,000 people have already signed. It only takes one minute.
A world free from poisonous chemicals is possible. And it’s in our hands. The op-ed by the Director of Navdanya International, the organisation that protects nature, the Earth’s biodiversity and people’s rights to seeds and food.
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