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Tue May 1, 2012, 08:27 AM

Taking Monsanto to the People’s Court

from YES! Magazine:

Taking Monsanto to the People’s Court
The legal system may be unwilling to hold the biotechnology giant accountable for what they've done, but the court of public opinion has no such hesitations.

by Blair Braverman
posted Apr 30, 2012

On April 21, approximately 100 people came to a courtroom in Iowa City to attend a mock trial called the Monsanto Hearings, the second of five such events scheduled nationwide. The trial was modeled after a preliminary hearing, an attempt to collect stories about harm caused by agribusiness giant Monsanto and determine if further public scrutiny is warranted.

The court’s five presiding judges—including a professor, a graduate student and an organic farmer —made no pretense of impartiality. “We are under no obligation to be even-handed,” they announced early on, “because in the court of public opinion, Monsanto is not even-handed. They have money for lobbyists, advertisements, corporate-funded research and media campaigns. The influence of this hearing, by contrast, depends on the power and truth of what is said.” The court, they explained, would not be considering legal violations, but rather violations of nature, ethics and human rights.

Untraditional as it might be, the hearing had an air of formality—the judges looked smart in their black robes, and witnesses swore to the truth before testifying, some in person and some over video. The first witness was a Vietnam veteran, trembling in a Hawaiian shirt, suffering from Hepatitis C linked to exposure to Monsanto’s Agent Orange (of which an active ingredient, 2,4-D, is a common lawn pesticide today); then a small farmer whose neighbor lost acres of organic crops due to pesticides drifting on morning fog; later, a garden and soil educator who brought a wooden box of soil and worms to the witness stand.

Other witnesses included professors, farmers, scientists and local activists. Their testimonies ranged from personal to technical, from stories of the approximately 200,000 Indian farmers who, indebted after Monsanto’s cotton seed prices rose from 7 to 17,000 rupees/kg, have committed suicide, to explanations of the influence of corporate agribusiness on U.S. land-grant universities and how minute manipulations of chemical structure have allowed Monsanto to sidestep health regulations. One man came dressed as a “superweed”—a plant that developed pesticide resistance after exposure to the chemical glyphosate—and lounged with his feet on the edge of the witness box. “I don’t give a fuck about Monsanto,” he said, swigging from a bottle marked “Roundup,” “though they do make a good drink.” ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/taking-monsanto-to-the-peoples-court

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