Monsanto’s activities have negative impact on basic human rights
Legal opinion: Better regulation needed to protect victims of multinational corporations. On Tuesday April 18th the five international judges of the Monsanto Tribunal presented their legal opinion. They have come to important conclusions, both on the conduct of Monsanto and on necessary developments in international law.
The judges conclude that Monsanto has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. On top of that Monsanto's conduct is negatively affecting the right to freedom indispensable for scientific research.
The judges also conclude that despite the development of many instruments to protect the environment, a gap remains between commitments and the reality of environmental protection. International law should be improved for better protection of the environment and include the crime of ecocide. The Tribunal concludes that if such a crime of Ecocide were recognized in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide.
In the third part of the advisory opinion, the Tribunal focusses on the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability. It calls for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. A set of legal rules is in place to protect investors rights in the frame of the World Trade Organization and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free-trade agreements. These provisions tend to undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human and environmental rights. UN bodies urgently need to take action; otherwise key questions will be resolved by private tribunals operating entirely outside the UN framework.
The Tribunal also urges to hold non-state actors responsible within international human rights law. The Tribunal reiterates that multinational enterprises should be recognized as responsible actors and should then be subjected to the International Criminal Court jurisdiction in case of infringement of fundamental rights. The Tribunal clearly identifies and denounces a severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations. Therefore, the advisory opinion encourages authoritative bodies to protect the effectiveness of international human rights and environmental law against the conduct of multinational corporations.
The very clear conclusions will be of interest to both the critics of Monsanto and Industrial Agriculture and to the shareholders of chemical companies and especially Bayer. The reputation of Monsanto - and Bayer in case of a merger – will not exactly improve with these conclusions by the judges of the Tribunal. The advisory opinion is a strong signal to those involved in international law, but also to the victims of toxic chemicals and corporate power. The Tribunal has created links and shared important information between lawyers and organisations that represent the victims. Therefore it is likely that the conclusions will lead to more liability cases against Monsanto and similar companies. This will shine a light on the true cost of production and effects the value of the shares in the long run. Companies that cause damage to health, food and the environment should and will be held accountable for their actions.