Monsanto Tribunal Renders Verdict: Company Could Possibly Be Held Accountable for Crime of “Ecocide”
-by Nick Meyer
The world-famous site in the Netherlands known as The Hague was the site of the Monsanto Tribunal, which began in October 2016, a landmark event seeking to establish a legal framework for holding companies like Monsanto accountable.
The Tribunal released its official legal opinion on the highly controversial U.S. agrochemical and GM seeds company.
The opinion was released by a panel of five international judges and included several key conclusions as to how the world should treat corporations such as Monsanto that damage human health and the environment.
While the opinion is not an official legal result, it may be used as a framework for future lawsuits against the company. As you might have expected, the opinion is not exactly favorable of Monsanto.
Could Monsanto Be Tried for “Ecocide?”
Perhaps the most important finding of the judges is Monsanto’s role in allegedly committing what could potentially be constituted as “ecocide” — a long-term, ongoing and willfully created pattern of damage to human health and the environment that shows no signs of slowing.
The panel called for the establishment of ecocide as a formally recognized crime in international criminal law, and added that the activities of Monsanto (which include everything from dumping cancer-causing PCBs to creating controversial GMO crops and toxic herbicides like Roundup) could possibly constitute it.
“Monsanto has engaged in practices that have impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health,” the website Sustainable Pulse noted in its summary of the event’s findings. “Additionally, Monsanto’s conduct has a negative impact on the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.”
Aside from establishing the new crime as a means to hold destructive multinational corporations like Monsanto accountable, the judges also called for better regulations in order to protect victims as well as better enforcement.
“The judges also conclude that despite the development of regulations intended to protect the environment, a gap remains between commitments and the reality of environmental protection,” read an official press release from the Organic Consumers Association, one of five official organizers of the Tribunal.
[Read the full Monsanto Tribunal judges’ opinion plus summary by clicking here]
In addition to the above findings, the Tribunal also called for a renewed focus on the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability, and the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law, the press release said.
From the release:
“A set of legal rules is in place to protect investors’ rights in the frame of the World Trade Organization and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free-trade agreements…These provisions tend to undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human and environmental rights.”
Corporations have continued to push for provisions such as these in the form of large multi-national trade deals that threaten to undermine national sovereignty. In many cases they have been deemed as being in favor of Monsanto, oil and gas companies, and other increasingly unpopular corporations that pollute the environment.
“United Nations bodies urgently need to take action; otherwise key questions of human and environmental rights violations will be resolved by private tribunals operating entirely outside the United Nations framework” the panel concluded.
Overall, a severe disparity between the rights of corporations and their obligations was uncovered, the panel said. More liability cases are likely to come for companies like Monsanto based on their findings, and in preparation, the panel has prepared a list of links and important info for lawyers and organizations representing victims.
“Companies that cause damage to health, food and healthy environment should and will be held accountable for their actions…” the panel concluded.
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Monsanto disagreed with the panel last year and called it a “select group of anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics who played organizers, judge and jury.”