|Download PDF of this full issue: v50n2.pdf (24.8 MB)|
Monsanto, Bayer and Two Wars
By Nadya Williams
Recent incendiary exposés of Monsanto products—scientifically proven in court to cause cancers in workers and homeowners who have used them —have caused stocks to plunge, and new owner, German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, to no longer want to use the brand name. As of June, 2020 Bayer, has agreed to pay nearly $11 Billion to settle 100,000 pending lawsuits filed against Monsanto for illnesses allegedly caused by the weed killer RoundUp. As with Monsanto, Bayer has admitted to no wrong-doing, and their products will continue to have no warning labels. However, three suits in California alone, which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, resulted in multi-million-dollar settlements in 2018 and 2019, which Bayer has challenged and will continue to challenge.
All this is quite a corporate burden for Bayer to acquire, along with the $62.5 billion price tag paid in June of 2018 to merge the two chemical giants. However, both these giants have major war crimes, from World War II to Vietnam, hidden in their pasts.
Sacrificing Vietnam for Monsanto Profits
Agrochemical Monsanto's vastly profitable role in the wars on South East Asia of 50 years ago is why Veterans For Peace held an "Expose Monsanto Vigil" in downtown San Francisco on August 10th, 2019—the annual International Agent Orange Day.
America's war on Indochina was one of the largest chemical poisonings of entire countries in the history of the world—the use of the defoliant Agent Orange on the jungles and food crops of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. And the damage to humans and the ecosystem continues today.
The herbicide called Agent Orange was sprayed for 10 years (1961-1971) to the tune of at least 20 million gallons. It contained Dioxin, the most toxic substance known to science. But Dioxin was not a necessary ingredient in Agent Orange, manufactured by Monsanto, Dow and 36 other companies. Higher temperatures, which were used to shorten the reaction time, produced the Dioxin; a longer processing time at a lower temperature, would have kept it out. However, that would have cost a small amount of the profits, so the contaminant was left in and Dioxin's gene-warping destruction went on to create havoc in humans and animals.
Tens of thousands of American veterans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese have died from Agent Orange poisoning in the decades since, according to the International Red Cross. In 1984, a class action suit by 20,000 American veterans was settled against the US chemical corporations, with an award of $180 million, on the condition that: no wrong-doing was admitted and no future legal action would be allowed. However, since Dioxin is an Epigenetic substance, severe birth defects, cancers and many other illnesses are now passing to the fourth generation since the war's end, with an estimated four million Vietnamese affected today, including newborn babies. The Vietnamese victims have never been acknowledged nor compensated.
Bayer's Bargain for Human Lives
Yet another damning piece of history—this one from World War II of 75 years ago—exposes yet another mass chemical poisoning. It concerns the German-owned Bayer, Monsanto's new merger partner, and its collaboration with Nazi death camps, as documented and verified in the Nuremberg, Germany, War Crimes Tribunals.
The following is taken word for word from documented testimony at a Nuremberg Tribunal: "During the war, Bayer wrote the commander of Auschwitz concentration camp to inquire about 'purchasing' 150 women for experiments with sleep-inducing drugs."
After compromising on the price, the actual letter from Bayer said: "We received your reply. Select 150 women in the best possible state of health, and as soon as you inform us that you are ready, we will fetch them ... " And later: "Despite their emaciated condition they were acceptable ... We will keep you informed on the progress of the experiments." And again later: "The experiments were concluded. All persons died. We will soon get in touch with you regarding a new shipment." *
Monsanto Back Home
In the summer of 2018, the first of three lawsuits against Monsanto by separate individuals was mounted by Dewayne "Lee" Johnson, a sickened school grounds keeper in California, who routinely used RoundUp weed killer on his job. RoundUp contains not Dioxin but Glyphosate. However, the voir dire phase (pre-screening of potential jurors in the jury pool) of that first case is extremely instructive, and makes the link to Agent Orange/Dioxin.
Juror #4, Robert Howard of San Francisco, who served during the entire 6-week trial of 2018, tells of a prospective juror being asked by a bank of Monsanto lawyers, "What, if anything, have you heard previously about Monsanto?" Answer: "Didn't Monsanto make Agent Orange in the Vietnam War?" "Strike, your honor!"cried the three Monsanto lawyers in unison as they literally leapt as one out of their seats. That comment was promptly struck from the court record, and the possible juror removed from the jury list.
However, despite all Monsanto's efforts, the 12 chosen members of the jury, including Howard, found Monsanto guilty. Coincidentally, the grounds keeper received a verdict awarding him the huge sum of $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages on August 10th 2018—the annual International Agent Orange Day. Bayer appealed and three months later Johnson's award was reduced to $78 million. A second corporate appeal by Bayer this July reduced damages to $20.5 million.
It is important to acknowledge that the findings of the jury members of corporate malfeasance and responsibility are not to make a dying man rich. They are intended to make a run-away behemoth pay attention and change its product and labeling so as not to continue to wreak havoc on the environment and yet more humans. While these cases continue to be appealed in a truly David versus Goliath situation, the plaintiff victims have yet to receive a penny.
Plaintiff Lee Johnson, the school grounds keeper, is a 46-year-old African American married father of three with terminal cancer. The weed killer glyphosate, combined with other ingredients, was scientifically proven in court in all three California cases to be a carcinogen. There are no warning labels on RoundUp. As of this writing Johnson is still alive despite suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer. His courage to challenge a corporate giant, along with a progressive law firm, is truly groundbreaking. Lee has made a 4-minute music video which can be found at: ANTLEE-Not Your Time. It is a poignant eye opener, showing the damage to his body, but not his spirit.
Bayer, like Monsanto before, has continued to assert that glyphosate is safe, exactly like Agent Orange/Dioxin was "safe" to use in South East Asia on our military and their civilians. Former juror Robert Howard is now writing a book on his life-changing experience as a juror.
But that is not all. According to The Guardian of London, August 8, 2019, Monsanto created an "intelligence fusion center." This term is used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies for operations focused on "surveillance and terrorism." As was presented in court, attorneys for the plaintiffs called attention to Monsanto's alleged efforts to suppress science that suggested the carcinogenic properties of glyphosate by ghostwriting articles and supplying environmental regulators with "bad science."
In addition, a multi-pronged strategy to exert pressure on journalists, scientists and non-profit citizen protection groups was carried out—the Berkeley-based US Right To Know (www.usrtk.org) being one such targeted watch dog. Lengthy reports were even compiled on singer Neil Young due to his 2015 album The Monsanto Years. The multinational agribusiness conglomerate, which is known for being one of the first to embrace the production of food from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), actually considered taking legal action against Young.
In a recent added twist, because Bayer was not able to quash Johnson's case, its bank of corporate lawyers tried to tack on a condition to the settlement—namely that all future class action suits would not be heard in trial court before a jury, but by a select "Scientific Panel" which would take four years to create—essentially buying Bayer time to develop tactics to ultimately avoid future culpability. This bolsters Bayer's position that only they understand "the science" (that their chemicals "are not harmful to the public") and only scientists can determine that—certainly not the public who sit on juries. However, federal Judge Chhabria, who oversaw the latest appeal, said in a preliminary opinion that the five-scientist panel will not be an acceptable replacement for a jury trial. So the legal wrangling continues.
All in all, the hidden histories of both of these corporate giants in at least two wars of the last century, and their criminal actions today, should alert the world as to their roles and products now.
* Source: Central Commission of Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, Konzentrationslager Oswiecim-Brzezinka-Auschwitz-Berkineau, Nuremberg Documents NJ. 7184, Warsaw: Jan Sehn, 1957, 89. From the book, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee by Victor Grossman, Monthly Review Press, 2019, Page 304.
Nadya Williams is a free-lance journalist; active Associate Member of Veterans For Peace since 2003; on the board of the Vietnam Chapter 160 of VFP and Director of Communication for the San Francisco Chapter 69.