A few blogs previously, I wrote about the recent decision in the courts against IG Farbensanto (our nickname here for "big agribusiness" and their desire for corporate control over the world's food supplies, and more particularly, our nickname here for the Bayer buyout of Mon[ster]santo). The verdict returned a 289,000,000 dollar judgement against Mon(ster)santo in favor of a school worker who claimed that exposure to that company's herbicide, Roundup, had given him terminal cancer. The jury agreed, and came back with the judgement. Bayer, the new and proud owners of Mon(ster)santo, has indicated it will appeal the verdict and judgement.
As I wrote when this story appeared, this is not good news for IG Farbensanto, as the pending lawsuits against it are now well into the thousands, and that means spending a lot of money to litigate those suits. Bayer, however, can afford it, since it is awash in cash, having bought the American company with cash. But its problems are just beginning. Most regular readers here are aware that India has taken action against the big argibusiness-GMO giants, and the recent decision in California against Mon(ster)santo has brought in a new, or rather, old problem: Vietnam. According to this RT article shared by Mr. B., that country is considering legal action for the damage done to its citizens by Mon(ster)santo's "Agent Orange" herbicide dropped on it during the Vietnam war in order to defoliate vast areas of Vietnamese jungles:
It might be argued that Vietnam has no legal case, since it was, after all, wartime, and in war - as one adage has it - anything goes. More tricky arguments might involve whether or not a former combatant has legal status before the courts. Now, that may sound a bit dicey from a legal point of view, but after all, this is IG Farbensanto we're dealing with, and according to researchers like F. William Engdahl (Seeds of Destruction) or Monique Robin (The World According to Monsanto), the company has a history of suing farmers for the presence of GMO crops on their land (even when they didn't plant any) and for non-payment of royalties. In other words, they'll stop at nothing in order to protect the "bottom line." It would be rather like British or German civilians during World War Two trying to sue British or German explosives manufacturers (which in Germany's case would be IG Farbensanto, by the way) for property damage.
Now, I'm not an attorney (thank goodness!), but it seems to me that if Vietnam chooses to take legal action, the hearings on legal "standing" alone could take some time, and cost a bundle in legal fees. Here's two paragraphs from the article explaining why:
“The verdict serves as a legal precedent which refutes previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto and other chemical corporations in the US and provided for the US army in the war are harmless,” deputy foreign ministry spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Tra said Thursday. “Vietnam has suffered tremendous consequences from the war, especially with regard to the lasting and devastating effects of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange.”
Around three million people in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange during a brutal chemical warfare campaign between 1961 and 1971, in which 12 million gallons of herbicide produced by Monsanto Corporation, among others, were dropped over the jungle to defoliate it. Because of such a high level of exposure to dioxin, a byproduct found in Agent Orange, millions of Vietnamese continue to suffer health conditions, often resulting in deformities which are passed through gene mutations to future generations.
In other words, it's the descendants of those Vietnamese experiencing the problems, and Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman Nguyen Phuong Tra has already indicated what Vietnam's legal strategy might be, for he has indicated Mon(ster)santo played its typical game of claiming its Agent Orange was "harmless" when it wasn't. That's the first point of the strategy, and the second is, of course, that Vietnam would be seeking compensation for the current generation of victims of Agent Orange, not the combatants at the time. And of course, that will raise all sorts of other legal issues - should a corporation be held liable for inter-generational damage allegedly done by one of its products during wartime, when in fact the corporation wasn't bombing Vietnam, but rather, the US government was; Mon(ster)santo merely sold the product. It did not tell the government what to do with it. And that makes sense too; one doesn't sue the knife-maker for selling a knife to a collector, or a chef, which subsequently is used in an assault on someone. On the other hand, one knife in one assault is hardly the same thing as an intergenerational effect of a technology on a whole human population and its descendants, especially if the government was told the product was harmless when it wasn't, and - wink wink nod nod - the government bought the narrative.
My point in all of this is that just this one point alone might have to be litigated, and that might take some time. And time, for an attorney, is money. And the bigger and more prestigious the law firm, the more money per "billable hour" that turns out to be. Add to that the practice (that everyone does and no one admits doing) that such hours are "padded", and it's a healthy chunk of money. The retainer fee just went up guys.
That's just the beginning of it. Much also depends on where Vietnam might choose to sue: in an American court, a German court, or "all of the above". Vietnam, of course, is not a bottomless pit of money, but neither is IG Farbensanto, and rest assured, if Vietnam does pursue legal action, then other countries having had dealings with the company might follow suit (not to coin a pun). And that list is quite long: India, Argentina, the Ukraine, Hungary... Imagine that, entire countries in a class action suit...
See you on the flip side...
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