Popular Culture

What Does the Monsanto Tribunal Hope to Achieve?


104_mon_mam_waywuwei_flickrIn our organic, “natural,” farmer’s market world, the name “Monsanto” is synonomous with evil. It is a reputation founded on the fact that the biotech and agrochemical company primarily focuses on genetically-modified organisms, altering the genetic makeup of crops to combat the crop’s natural disadvantages. They are also accused of copyrighting their genetically-modified seeds, thus reducing natural biodiversity and wiping out smaller farming groups. The Monsanto Tribunal, crowdfunded by the people and scheduled for October 2016, hopes to put the company on trial for “crimes against nature and humanity.”

The Monsanto Tribunal website explains the specifics of the charge “crimes against nature and humanity”:

For an increasing number of people from around the world, Monsanto today is the symbol of industrial agriculture. This chemical-intensive form of production pollutes the environment, accelerates biodiversity loss, and massively contributes to global warming. 

Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.

All valid points, especially since the tribunal seems to have no illusions about proving that Monsanto’s GM food is unsafe for human consumption, a popularly-held belief that has no basis in fact.

In fact, 90 percent of scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have concluded that, based on the evidence, GM food is perfectly safe to eat. Bill Nye, previously a vehement opponent of GM food, was given a tour of Monsanto’s facilities and found nothing to concern him. He even found that Monsanto’s techniques were extremely precise. However, only 37 percent of Americans believe GM foods are safe to eat.

The safety of the food is not, however, the focus of the Hague’s Monsanto Tribunal. Instead, they’re tying their efforts to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, as the above passage from the website makes plain.

So what will this tribunal hope to achieve? The tribunal’s power will be symbolic at best, since it has no power to prosecute, sentence, or even formally charge Monsanto. Instead of punishing the company for its practices, the tribunal’s major goal is this: to establish “ecocide” as a recognizable crime for the first time, setting precedent that will make it easier to charge, prosecute, and sentence similar companies in the future for these crimes against the environment.

“The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment,” Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association and a founder of the Monsanto Tribunal, said in a statement.

The trial of Monsanto will serve to research exactly which practices the company are performing that contribute to climate change, loss of biodiversity, and “privatizing life,” and perhaps criminalize these practices so that future companies are forbidden from using them.

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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