The decades long scream of agony of a poisoned people and a poisoned earth for accountability on the part of one of the most vicious and manipulative of Transnational Corporates (TNCs) has been vindicated. In October 2016, the Monsanto Tribunal (MT) set up in the Hague listened to the testimony, evidence and eyewitness reports of farmers, scientists, activists, intellectuals, thinkers and citizens hailing from many countries on the misery visited upon this peopled earth by Monsanto. On the 18th of April 2017 it delivered its advisory opinion, damning this company for ever and damning every apologist for the insane mangling of science to manufacture consent and deter dissent of its planet murdering malpractices and the genocide and ecocide it has perpetrated in the name of profit.
The Tribunal was one of the best convened in recent times and comprised of Judge Dior Fall Sow of Senegal who is a consultant to the International Criminal Court and a former Advocate General at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Judge Jorge Fernández who is from Souza, Mexico and who is currently Judge at the Court of Administrative Litigation of Mexico City, Judge Eleonora Lamm of Argentina who is the Human rights Director for the Supreme Court of Justice of Mendoza with a doctorate in bioethics and law, Judge Steven Shrybman of Canada who is a partner in the law firm of Goldblatt Partners LLP and practices international trade and public interest law in Toronto and Ottawa and Judge Françoise Tulkens of Belgium, who has a Doctorate in Law, a Master’s degree in Criminology and is a former judge in the European Court of Human Rights. They took a full six months to carefully and thoroughly study the evidence before they came to their conclusions and let us be very clear here: this cannot be overturned by the Monsanto henchmen through their usual method of using manipulated science to turn black into white, untruth into truth, bad into good. They can no longer act like the bully who is finally whipped and cry foul when all it has done over years is foul up the world and its people.
In all, the tribunal was asked to rule on six questions. For the purpose of this article, I will concentrate on the two key areas relevant to its title: That of scientific fraud and that of ecocide.
Monsanto guilty of manipulation and misrepresenting science:
First, let us take a look at question 4 concerning the alleged infringement on the freedom indispensable for scientific research, as guaranteed by Article 15(3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the freedoms of thought and expression guaranteed in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
According to the summary report of the findings of the Tribunal, The “freedom indispensable for scientific research” closely relates to freedom of thought and expression, as well as the right to information and is therefore key to safeguarding other fundamental rights, such as the right to health, food, water and a healthy environment. This freedom engenders the requirement to ensure that scientific researchers are able to express themselves freely and are protected when acting as whistle-blowers. Some of Monsanto's practices mentioned in the testimonies of agronomists and molecular biologists have resulted in court convictions for the company. Among those practices are: illegal GMO plantations; resorting to studies misrepresenting the negative impacts of Roundup by limiting the analysis to glyphosate only while the product is a combination of substances; massive campaigns aiming at discrediting the results of independent scientific studies.
In response to Question 4, the Tribunal concludes that Monsanto's conduct is negatively affecting the right to freedom indispensable for scientific research. Conduct such as intimidation, discrediting independent scientific research when it raises serious questions about the protection of the environment and public health, suborning false research reports, putting pressure on governments are transgressing the freedom indispensable for scientific research. This abuse is exacerbated by exposure to health and accompanying environmental risks, which deprive society the possibility to safeguard fundamental rights. Taking direct measures to silence scientists or attempting to discredit their work constitutes conduct that abuses the right to freedom indispensable for scientific research and the right to freedom of expression.
Monsanto guilty of the crime of Ecocide:
Next let us look at question 6 which asked the Tribunal if the activities of Monsanto could constitute a crime of ecocide, understood as causing serious damage or destroying the environment, so as to significantly and durably alter the global commons or ecosystem services upon which certain human groups rely.
According to the summary report of the findings of the Tribunal, developments in international environmental law confirms the increased awareness of how environmental harm negatively affects the fundamental values of society. Preserving dignity for present and future generations and the integrity of ecosystems is an idea that has gained traction in the international community. As an evidence of these developments, and according to the Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritization from September 2016, the Prosecutor of the ICC wants to give particular consideration to Rome Statute crimes involving the illegal dispossession of land or the destruction of the environment. However, despite the development of many instruments to protect the environment, a gap remains between legal commitments and the reality of environmental protection. The Tribunal assesses that international law should now precisely and clearly assert the protection of the environment and the crime of ecocide. The Tribunal concludes that if such a crime of ecocide were recognized in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide. Several of the company’s activities may fall within this infraction, such as the manufacture and supply of glyphosate-based herbicides to Colombia in the context of its plan for aerial application on coca crops, which negatively impacted the environment and the health of local populations; the large-scale use of dangerous agrochemicals in industrial agriculture; and the engineering, production, introduction and release of genetically engineered crops. Severe contamination of plant diversity, soils and waters would also fall within the qualification of ecocide. Finally, the introduction of persistent organic pollutants such as PCB into the environment causing widespread, long-lasting and severe environmental harm and affecting the right of the future generations could fall within the qualification of ecocide as well.
Finally, and crucially, the Tribunal, in its advisory opinion, insists on the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability and calls for two urgent actions.
The first is to establish the primacy of international human rights and environment law over the plethora of laws designed to protect investors in the frame of the World Trade Organization. They made it very clear that the almost draconian laws of the WTO tend to undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human and environmental rights and that action should be taken to reduce the widening gap between these laws and international trade and investment law. If this is not done, they opine, key questions will be resolved by private tribunals operating entirely outside the UN framework.
The second is a call to hold non-state actors responsible within international law and consider that it is time that multinational enterprises are subjects of law that can be sued in the case of infringement of fundamental rights. The Tribunal clearly identifies and denounces a severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations and encourages authoritative bodies to protect the effectiveness of international human rights and environmental law against the conduct of multinational corporations.
We are moving into a sustainable world and such things as multinational corporations and especially companies such as Monsanto do not belong to that world. They did horrible things in the industrial era that have no place in the sustainable era. The world’s people have had enough of these monsters. This is the first salvo against such organizations and they had be crystal clear about the following: They are done. They are dusted. Their time is up.