Civil Society-Led Monsanto Tribunal Finds Agro-Giant Guilty On All Counts 19/04/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)An international civil society tribunal has found that agro-business multinational Monsanto conducts activities that violate basic human rights. The five international judges of the Monsanto Tribunal presented their condemning verdict yesterday. The Monsanto Tribunal “to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide,” is a so-called “opinion tribunal”. An opinion tribunal is neither an ordinary court that falls within the judicial order of a state, nor a court set up by an international organisation, the advisory opinion [pdf] delivered yesterday says. Opinion tribunals “are tasked with examining, using a judicial method, the rules of law applicable to highly problematic events or situations” affecting society. “Most opinion tribunals have had a considerable impact, and it is now accepted that they contribute to the progressive development of international law,” the document says. The Monsanto Tribunal’s judges in their legal opinion provided conclusions on the conduct of Monsanto and on what they deemed necessary development in international law, in particular “the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability.” According to the tribunal’s release, Monsanto “has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health.” Additionally, the judges found that Monsanto negatively affects the right to freedom “indispensable for scientific research.” The tribunal worked on six questions regarding: the right to a healthy environment; the right to food; the right to the highest attainable standard of health; the freedom indispensable for scientific research; whether Monsanto was complicit in the commission of a war crime by providing materials to the United States army in the context of operation “Ranch Hand,” launched in Vietnam in 1962; and whether Monsanto’s activities constitute a crime of ecocide. The tribunal sat in The Hague, Netherlands from 16-18 October 2016, and was composed of five judges from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, and Senegal, all of whom are legal professionals or practising judges, according to the initiative. The tribunal heard 28 witnesses from various countries. Monsanto’s officials were invited to send their observations in writing and participate in the hearings, but did not, the opinion says. Monsanto’s Response Monsanto provided an open letter in reaction to the tribunal’s opinion yesterday. In the letter, the company says the tribunal “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.” Access to Seeds, IP Rights Need Greater Scrutiny Monsanto’s controversial weedkiller According to the opinion, farmers in countries that adopted genetically modified crops have seen their seeds choice restricted, as non-GMO seeds are being withdrawn from the market. GMO seeds are not always affordable to small farmers, it said, “and may only be available to large business entities.” In addition, according to the opinion, farmers have been “forced” to buy seed every year and have lost the ability to save seeds, threatening the conservation of traditional knowledge. The tribunal found that seeds patents “are in contradiction with the principle of human right to food which guarantees access to nutrition, the basic need for every human to exist.” “Intellectual property rights should be rightfully respected, but when companies are taking hold of sources of nutrition,” it should be under closer scrutiny, the opinion said. Negative Effects on Freedom of Scientific Research According to the judges, Monsanto, by conducting activities such as discrediting independent scientific research raising questions about environmental and public health impacts of its products, and producing “false research reports,” has negatively affected the freedom indispensable for scientific research. Limitations of Current Human Right Instruments Beyond the case of Monsanto, the tribunal said that trade and investment agreements “have equipped private corporations with extraordinary and powerful tools for asserting and defending their commercial interests.” The tribunal said that the effectiveness of international human rights instruments has been constrained by the “general view that the obligations they engender have no direct application to non-state actors.” Reforms are also necessary, the tribunal said, to “ensure that international financial institutions, international bodies such as the World Trade Organization, and UN [United Nations] bodies as well, adhere to and are accountable for non-compliance with the norms of human rights law.” Image Credits: Flickr – Mike Mozart, Monsanto Tribunal Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Civil Society-Led Monsanto Tribunal Finds Agro-Giant Guilty On All Counts" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.