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Monsanto, a half-century of health scandals

By Soren Seelow, Le Monde  Posted by Siv O'Neall (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   10 comments
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Original article published in Le Monde - Translation by Siv O'Neall, Axis of Logic

In 2001, 3,600 inhabitants of the city of Anniston, Alabama, attacked Monsanto for PCB contamination. According to a report, declassified by the U.S. Agency of Environmental Protection (EPA), Monsanto for almost forty years dumped thousands of tons of contaminated waste in a stream and an open garbage dump in the heart of a black neighborhood in the city.

The way The Washington Post reported the story is instructive:

"Monsanto documents -- many emblazoned with warnings such as "CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy" -- show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew. In 1966, Monsanto managers discovered that fish submerged in that creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood and shedding skin as if dunked into boiling water. They told no one."

In 1975, a study conducted by Monsanto showed that PCB causes tumors in rats. The multinational decided to change the terms of "slightly tumorigenic" to "does not appear to be carcinogenic." "We can not afford to lose a single dollar " -- thus ends one of the memos by The Washington Post .
Monsanto was finally convicted in 2002 of having polluted "the territory of Anniston and the blood of its people with the PCB" . The firm was ordered to pay $ 700 million in damages and to guarantee the cleaning-up of the city. No legal action was brought against the company officials.

In February 2007, The Guardian revealed that the agrochemical giant applied the same methods on multiple sites in Britain between 1965 and 1972. The newspaper had access to a government report showing that 67 products, including Agent Orange, dioxin and PCBs, have been identified in a quarry in Wales. In France, the manufacture and use of PCBs have been banned since 1987.

    Agent Orange: convinced of "poisoning"

During these same years, between 1961 and 1971, Monsanto produced Agent Orange, made up from the herbicide 2,4,5-T, whose dangerousness has been widely known ever since the explosion of the Nitro plant. This defoliant was massively dumped by U.S. aircraft over Vietnamese forests during the war. The consequences are still felt today, with many cancers and birth defects occurring in Vietnam, as well as various effects felt by many U.S. veterans.

In the 1970s, the Vietnam veterans opened a class action against the manufacturers of Agent Orange. Monsanto, alongside six other companies, was found to be the major guilty party in a lawsuit concerning damages for poisoning. In 1987, the seven manufacturers of Agent Orange were sentenced to pay $ 180 million to a compensation fund to U.S. soldiers.

During the trial, Monsanto presented scientific studies showing no link between exposure to dioxin and the cancers suffered by many veterans, in order to dismiss their action. It was demonstrated in the early 1990s that the studies based on the consequences of the explosion at the Nitro plant in 1949 were biased.

This scientific fraud is confirmed by the National Research Council, which found that Monsanto's studies "suffer from misclassification between those exposed and not exposed to dioxin, and that this scientific fraud is confirmed by the National Research Council, and that they were biased in order to obtain the desired effect. "The case will be brought up again in 1990 by Greenpeace and the researcher Joe Thornton in a report entitled Science for Sale.

    Is Roundup herbicide toxic?

Do you remember the advertising and the good dog Rex: "Roundup does not pollute either the earth or Rex' bones." It caused Monsanto to be convicted twice, in the United States and France, for false statements placed on the packaging of the total herbicide (which eliminates all plants).

In 1975, the company launched Roundup, a very powerful herbicide presented as "biodegradable" and "good for the environment" . In 1996, the New York prosecutor condemned Monsanto which was fined 50,000 dollars and forced to withdraw statements deemed misleading. In January 2007, the firm was condemned in France for the same reasons ... 15,000 euros in fines. Roundup is today the world's best selling herbicide.

Several corroborating studies say however that the pesticide which is Monsanto's flagship - and its active ingredient, glyphosate - is potentially teratogenic, that is to say responsible for fetal malformations. One of them, published late 2010 in Chemical Research in Toxicology, shows that direct exposure of amphibian embryos at very low doses of glyphosate herbicide results in malformations.

Monsanto refutes these conclusions: "Glyphosate has no harmful effects on reproduction in adult animals and does not cause malformations in the offspring of animals exposed to glyphosate, even at very high doses," the firm says on its website.

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Siv O'Neall was born and raised in Sweden where she graduated from Lund University. She has lived in Paris, France and New Rochelle, N.Y. and traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Europe, and other continents, including several trips to (more...)

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