Governance

US court quashes Monsanto's 'undemocratic' plea to Avaaz to hand over internal documents

The order prevents the agrochemical major from silencing the civic network that has been working actively to stop EU from re-issuing a 15-year license for the toxic glyphosate

 
By Vibha Varshney
Last Updated: Friday 07 September 2018
Roundup weed killer
One of the world’s most popular weed killer, Roundup contains glyphosate, a chemical that has been labelled “probably carcinogenic. Credit: Jessper Media/Flickr One of the world’s most popular weed killer, Roundup contains glyphosate, a chemical that has been labelled “probably carcinogenic. Credit: Jessper Media/Flickr

The Manhattan Supreme Court has quashed Monsanto's subpoena to Avaaz, a civic campaigning network of around 48 million subscribers around the world, to handover all documents, emails, correspondence and other materials in its possession related to glyphosate.

"Not only are we safe from this legal attack, but the judge even told Monsanto that what they were doing was anti-democratic and an attempt to “chill” the voices of our members, and the voices of citizens engaged in lobbying everywhere," says Avaaz deputy director, Emma Ruby-Sachs who appeared in the court for the hearing.

The subpoena was issued as part of a case filed by Ronald Peterson and Jeff Hall who suffer from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They link their ill health to the use of glyphosate, a chemical that has been labeled “probably carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency under the World Health Organization.

This case was filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis, Missouri. Although Avaaz is not directly linked to the case in Missouri, the organisation has in the past worked actively to stop the European Union from re-issuing a 15-year license for glyphosate, block the setting up of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seed factory in Argentina and the merger of Monsanto and Bayer. Had the court not given the verdict in favour of Avaaz, the supporters, would have been dissuaded from involvement and this would have killed the campaign.

Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup contains glyphosate and is one of the world’s most popular weed killer. It is the cornerstone chemical in the company’s $50 billion empire. Monsanto was recently bought over by Germany’s Bayer. 

Countries find it difficult to ban or restrict its use due to pressure from the industry and farmer groups but victims want it removed. On August 11, they had the first victory when the jury at California's Superior Court hearing a case against Monsanto has ordered the company to pay $289 million to DeWayne Johnson who got terminal cancer (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) after using the weed killer. The jury deliberated for two and a half days and concluded that Johnson's cancer was at least partly caused by using glyphosate. Monsanto "acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct," Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos announced in court. At that time, there were at least 4,000 cases against the company. These have doubled since the positive verdict.

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