Biotech and agrochemical giant Monsanto, which has received a fair amount of flak over the past few years, is to be placed before a citizens' tribunal – where it will be investigated for “crimes against nature and humanity.” Environmentalists, activists and scientists in The Hague, the city of the famous international criminal court in the Netherlands, will be aiming to prosecute the company on charges of “ecocide.” It was announced at a press conference on December 3 in Paris in order to tie it with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.
The Monsanto Tribunal, as the crowdfunded group is calling itself, will aim to investigate the long-touted claims that the corporation has been willingly causing environmental damage and harm to human health. The trial is somewhat symbolic, however, as the group won’t have the power themselves to sentence or charge the controversial giant. The larger aim is to establish “ecocide” as a recognizable crime for the first time. The group's trial won't actually take place in the international criminal court; they are merely conducting their trial somewhere in the city.
“The time is long overdue for a global citizens' tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a founder of the Monsanto Tribunal, in a statement.
Much of the controversy towards Monsanto comes from its major focus on genetically modified (GM) crops. A recent poll from the Pew Foundation found that nearly 90 percent of scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) – one of the world’s largest science bodies – have concluded that, based on mounting evidence, GM food is perfectly safe. Many of the members of the citizens' tribunal are known opponents of GM technology, mostly unrecognized by the scientific community.
Bill Nye, a previously outspoken critic of Monsanto, was given a tour of its facilities and found nothing concerning – in fact, he found that the GM techniques were surprisingly precise. In contrast, only 37 percent of the American public agree that GM foods are safe to eat.
Image credit: GM crops have been eaten by humans safely for decades. igor.stevanovic/Shutterstock
Monsanto, a prime user and indeed pioneer of GM crops, has become the focus of hate from anti-GM groups across the world, including the Monsanto Tribunal, who are making some staggering claims. “Monsanto is... largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity,” said environmental activist Vandana Shiva, a member of the citizen’s tribunal.
Most scientists would agree that the decline in biodiversity and species extinction is indeed due to human activity, including man-made climate change and land use changes, but Monsanto isn’t solely to blame. There is some warranted criticism, though, regarding its effective “copywriting” of certain seeds, allowing them exclusivity over their use – this can lead to a reduction in biodiversity, not to mention putting small farming groups out of business.
Nevertheless, although it may be popular to think that a large corporation is nefariously destroying the planet for its own gain for now, there is almost no evidence showing that Monsanto is responsible for the things the tribunal is accusing it of.