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A collaborative group that formed an international tribunal to address accusations of ecocide and human rights violations toward industrial agricultural giant Monsanto issued its findings in a recently released ruling.

The Monsanto Tribunal describes its organization as “an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide.” The tribunal, which is comprised of numerous individuals largely from backgrounds in agricultural activism, was formed to “allow for an open deliberation on the company’s policies and their impacts.” The Monsanto Tribunal held hearings over two days last October in which dozens of witnesses from across the globe provided testimony.

To be clear, the tribunal is symbolic. The group did not seek legal action against the company or any other agricultural corporation with these hearings, and the tribunal did not file a legal complaint against Monsanto. However, the organization stated that it was seeking to analyze the corporation’s actions based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and provide an “opinion based exclusively on legal consideration, grounded in international human rights law.”

The tribunal’s mission was to have a panel of five judges- who hailed from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Mexico and Senegal- "all of them legal professionals or practising judges called upon to render an advisory opinion on the basis of a legal analysis and reasoning," issue an advisory opinion addressing six questions:

  • Whether Monsanto violated “the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as recognized in international human rights law”
  • Whether Monsanto violated “the right to food, as recognized in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”
  • Whether Monsanto violated “the right to the highest attainable standard of health”
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  • Whether Monsanto violated “the freedom indispensable for scientific research” and “the freedoms of thought and expression”
  • Whether Monsanto has been “complicit in the commission of a war crime”
  • Whether “the past and present activities of Monsanto 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”

The results provided four conclusive opinions against Monsanto. The judges found that Monsanto "negatively affected" the right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and "freedom indispensable for scientific research."

Regarding the issue of whether the company was "complicit" in war crimes, the panel did not issue a conclusive opinion because no "relevant evidence has been provided before the Tribunal in this respect." The panel did not issue an opinion regarding the question of whether Monsanto participated in ecocide because this particular conduct is not currently recognized in international criminal law.

While the tribunal's advisory opinion does not carry weight on its own, the group expressed that "Most opinion tribunals have had a considerable impact, and it is now accepted that they contribute to the progressive development of international law." Monsanto, through its Global Human Rights Steering Committee, issued its own statement in response to the tribunal's opinion:

You may have seen a press release today that highlights an Advisory Opinion on the “Monsanto Tribunal”. We stand committed to real dialogue with those who are genuinely interested in sustainable agriculture; human rights to food, health and a safe environment; who we are and what we do. The original event was staged by a select group of anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics who played organizers, judge and jury. It denied existing scientific evidence and judicial outcomes on several topics; and was organized with a pre-determined outcomes The opinion – characterized by the Tribunal panel itself as advisory only - was the anticipated next communication from this group.In a time where the public is trying to separate fact from fiction, this newly issued, non-legal opinion could be misconstrued. We believe that human rights and agriculture deserve open and thoughtful dialogue to help find real solutions to the challenges of hunger, food security, and the role of farmers to nourish our growing world sustainably."

This dismissal by Monsanto is par for the course in regards to the company refusing to accept the mountain of science showing the dangers of their products, in particular, glyphosate. As Monsanto attempts to paint those who question the safety of their products as kooks and 'anti-agriculture', scientists around the world are proving the dangers of their products.