This fall, an international assembly of legal experts, judges and witnesses met at The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal to investigate glyphosate, the most widely applied weed-killing chemical in the world and the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
The Monsanto Tribunal has come one year after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, catalogued the ubiquitous herbicide glyphosate as a 2A “probable” human carcinogen. Testing recently revealed traces of glyphosate in 10 out of 24 foods sampled, including some organic foods.
These revelations cast doubt on the actions of governmental regulators like the EPA, which has previously claimed that glyphosate presents no cancer risk at all. Roundup has even been promoted abroad via U.S. foreign aid programs. Regulators may not have taken Roundup off the shelves for the last 40 years due in large part to Monsanto’s ongoing lobbying and PR campaign. But now, the corporate giant is grappling with a new form of accountability on a global scale.
On October 14-16, a panel of legal experts gathered from five different continents to hear 30 stories of the damage that Roundup has propagated since it hit the shelves 40 years ago. Witnesses endeavored to hold an absent Monsanto accountable for crimes against humanity, as well as destruction of the environment or “ecocide”. Though the educational tribunal lacked true legal bite, the Monsanto Tribunal was an important first step in holding the company accountable.
Timothy Litzenburg is a lawyer representing hundreds of individual Americans who suffer from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a consequence of exposure to glyphosate. He spoke about how Monsanto pumps enormous sums of money to preserve its power and influence over governmental decision-making around the world.
Others testified on behalf of entire nations. Colombia, whose agricultural landscape was for years regularly coated with aerial applications of glyphosate, has encountered health and environmental damage on a massive scale. In Mexico, “ecocide” is already a term used to describe the national expanse of environmental destruction. Organizational leaders like Ronnie Cummins at Via Organica do not parse words when it comes to assigning blame and demanding solutions: “Corporate agribusiness…[has] literally killed the climate-stabilizing, carbon-sink capacity of the Earth's living soil,” testified Cummins at the Monsanto Tribunal. “Recognizing ecocide as a crime is the only way to guarantee the right of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected.”
In light of evidence of the health risks that Roundup poses, tribunal participants called on governments to ban glyphosate. However, our EPA is far from taking this necessary action and once again this fall postponed a meeting of its scientific advisors on Roundup that has been surrounded by controversy.
This international effort to stop the harm caused by Roundup is just further proof of why the EPA needs to act. Tell the EPA it’s time to ban Roundup.
Carolyn Lois is an intern for the International Team and a recent graduate of Skidmore College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies.