Monsanto Tribunal to Examine Agro-Giant for Ecocide

Representatives from more than 800 organizations around the world will convene in The Hague, Netherlands today for the Monsanto Tribunal. The symbolic trial accusing the agro-giant of ecocide will collect testimonies from farmers, families, scientists, business owners, and global organizations with regard to the global effects of Monsanto on agriculture, health, and the environment.

A simultaneous but distinct People’s Assembly will provide the opportunity for individuals and organizations to contribute towards planning for a future without Monsanto.

“Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least one-third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,” a spokeswoman for the Tribunal told The Guardian. “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.”

Five international judges will take evidence from 30 witnesses and victims of Monsanto over the course of the Tribunal, which will continue through the weekend. Witnesses will include former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.

The Tribunal will adopt the format of the UN’s international court of justice, but while the judges are expected to deliver a lengthy advisory legal opinion after the Tribunal, these results will have no legal standing.

“[The Tribunal] aims to assess the allegations of harm made against Monsanto as well as the human health and environmental damages caused by the company throughout its history,” said the spokeswoman.

The organizers of the Tribunal have described it as a “moral trial,” whereas Monsanto describes it as a “mock trial” and a “stunt.”

Those in favor of the Tribunal note its necessity in a time when Monsanto seems able to bend governments to its will. The Monsanto Protection Act was slipped into an American appropriations bill in 2013, and legislation in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is working toward a reversal of European laws mandating GMO labeling and banning GMO foods.

Monsanto has declined to take part in the Tribunal.

“We welcome a genuine, constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production,” wrote Martha Burmaster, Monsanto’s director of human rights. “[But] this is not a real dialogue. It is a staged event, a mock trial where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined.”

The Tribunal is expected to cost €500,000 ($552,000), €364,000 of which has already been raised via crowdfunding efforts.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco