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Monsanto legal cases

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monsanto has been involved in several high-profile lawsuits, as both plaintiff and defendant. It has been defendant in a number of lawsuits over health and environmental issues related to its products. Monsanto has also made frequent use of the courts to defend its patents, particularly in the area of agricultural biotechnology, as have other companies in the field, such as Dupont Pioneer[1][2] and Syngenta.[3]

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Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been the subject of controversy pretty much since their inception. More recently they’ve become sort of a buzzword for outraged social media experts, but don’t let these Twitter crusaders fool you, GMOs are in fact a very serious topic. They have an impact on everyone. Take the US, for example, where the most produced crop by far is corn. In 2014 over 361 million tons of corn were cultivated, more than all other crops combined. That corn is then used to make a variety of different products. Not just food: you’ll find corn derivatives in Coke, milk, toothpaste, aspirin and varnish. Corn is also the most popular animal feed, and when you consider the fact that 85% of all US corn is genetically modified, you’ll realize GMOs are all around you. That’s why this week on Behind the Business we’ll be taking a look at the company that started it all: the world’s largest seed company, Monsanto. Monsanto was originally founded as a chemical company in 1901 by John Francis Queeny. Queeny was in his forties by that point and he had had a pretty rough start to his life. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 left his family homeless when he was only 12. He had to quit his education in order to start working full-time as an office boy at a wholesale drug firm. Through hard work and dedication John climbed the ranks of the pharmaceutical industry, and he eventually moved to St. Louis in 1891 as a representative of the Meyer Brothers Drug Company, the largest drug distributor at the time. Fiver years later John married Olga Monsanto and when he decided to establish a business of his own in 1901, he named his company after her. John established Monsanto in order to produce saccharin, an artificial sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than table sugar and has effectively no nutritional value. Saccharin was first synthesized in 1879 and although it is a widely popular sugar substitute today, back in the 1900s nobody in the US had even heard of it. Germany had a near-monopoly on its production, and there wasn’t a single manufacturer in the United States. John’s newly established business was the first US saccharin producer and the American market turned out to be very lucrative. One of his earliest customers was actually the Coca Cola company, which still uses saccharin in its popular Diet Cokes. By 1905 John had added two more food additives to Monsanto’s repertoire: vanillin and coumarin, which up until then were also produced only by Germany. In its first decade Monsanto barely turned a profit because the Germans were constantly undercutting them. When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 though, all chemical imports were halted, leaving a huge void in the market that Monsanto was more than happy to fill. Its revenue jumped from 81,000 dollars in 1913 to 905,000 dollars in 1919, establishing Monsanto as one of the big US chemical companies. 1919 also marked Monsanto’s first steps abroad when it acquired a Welsh chemical producer that made aspirin and rubber catalyzers. This was Monsanto’s first big acquisition, but it would definitely not be the last. The 1920s saw Monsanto expand its product range to feature industrial chemicals, the most notable one being polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB. Now, PCBs can come in various molecular configurations, 209 to be precise, and all of them are very toxic. They’re proven carcinogens and pollutants that are resistant to acids and heat, and need about 200 days of direct sunlight just to start breaking down. If you’re thinking that this was some exotic, rarely used chemical, you’d be wrong: PCBs were used as coolants in various electrical devices prior to the 1970s, most notably in power transformers and capacitors. Odds are, if you go to some of the more neglected cities in your state, you’d find transformers with PCB warning labels there. Monsanto was the only US producer of PCBs for almost 50 years before Congress finally banned the substance in 1979. Internal documents leaked in 2002 show that Monsanto was well aware of the toxicity of PCBs more than a decade before their eventual ban. In fact, Monsanto’s first move at circumventing environmental laws happened all the way back in 1926 when the company incorporated a town in Illinois called, you guessed it, Monsanto. Back then local jurisdictions were responsible for most environmental laws, and Monsanto the town was very lenient with its regulations, so much so that Monsanto the company built its largest PCB factory there. That town still exists, by the way, but it’s called Sauget now and it barely has 159 residents. The case with PCBs is one of the earliest examples of Monsanto’s extreme for-profit culture that has by now become nothing short of an immortal Internet meme. The sad thing is that Monsanto’s awful reputation is actually pretty well deserved, but you’ll see more about that later. So, by the time the Second World War had started in 1939, Monsanto had established itself as the US military’s premiere chemical supplier. Their most valuable product at the time was Styrene, a compound crucial for the production of synthetic rubber. Interestingly enough, Monsanto was also a large contributor to the Manhattan Project. They were instrumental in the development of the polonium-based initiators used in the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. During the postwar decades Monsanto got into the agriculture business by developing pesticides. Their first one, called dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane or DDT, went into production in 1944, and was banned less than 30 years later due to its extreme toxicity. Another herbicide produced by Monsanto was Agent Orange, which became infamous after the US military used it as a defoliant during Operation Ranch Hand of the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was very effective at destroying the crops of the Viet Cong, but it was so toxic that it also ended up contaminating more than 3 million people and causing half a million Vietnamese children to be born with deformities. The early 1970s saw Monsanto make huge progress in the development of LED lights. In fact, Monsanto was the first company to mass produce them, which brought the price of LEDs down from 200 dollars to less than ten cents a piece. Just a few years later though the US government finally cracked down on Monsanto’s reckless use of harmful chemicals. The bans on PCBs and several pesticides hurt Monsanto’s revenue greatly, and on top of that several class-action lawsuits were initiated that ended up costing hundreds of millions of dollars. In this period of distress Monsanto’s executives decided to shift the company’s focus away from chemical production and towards agricultural biotechnology. This transition occurred during the early 1980s, and back then biotechnology was a very young science. Monsanto was early to the party, which gave the company’s immense R&D division a head start. In 1983 Monsanto scientists led by Robert Fraley became the first in history to genetically modify plants. This pivotal achievement ushered in a new era for agriculture: the era of GMOs. Now, despite what the armchair experts from Twitter might be telling you, genetically modified crops are not bad in and of themselves. The reason there is such a negative perception of GMOs is that, as has happened numerous times in history, people take a good thing, and out of greed they take it so far that it eventually becomes a bad thing. GMO crops are a perfect example of this. There are a number of ways to genetically modify a crop without compromising the health of the people who eat it: some of the most basic ones are shortening the plant’s seed-to-seed period or outright pumping up the size of the resulting fruit or vegetable. Monsanto, however, in their quest for ever-increasing yield, took GMO crops to a whole new level. Back in the early 1980s, when Monsanto was faced with a slew of lawsuits and a ban on its best products, they discovered glyphosate, an extremely potent herbicide that saved the company from potential bankruptcy. Monsanto marketed their herbicide under the name Roundup, and in the span of just two decades it became the most widely used herbicide in the Untied States. The reason for its success lies in Monsanto’s development of GMO crops. You see, in the past farmers had to plant their seeds a good deal away from each other. They needed that space in order to till their fields; otherwise weeds would grow around their crops and kill them. When Monsanto developed GMO crops that were resistant to Roundup, however, a whole new avenue of cultivation emerged. Suddenly, farmers could plant their crops much closer together, since they could just dump tons of Roundup directly onto their crops without harming them. As you can imagine this was a huge increase in crop yield, and combined with the cost reduction of not having to till the land as much, farmers quickly switched to Monsanto’s GMO solution. Up until the year 2000 Monsanto was the sole producer of glyphosate due to the patents they held, and it is during this time that the company expanded into the titan it is today. Roundup was, of course, just the beginning, and since then Monsanto has spent tens of billions into the development of various pesticides and seeds. Last year alone they spent 1.5 billion dollars on R&D, and these investments have more than paid off: Two years ago Monsanto’s GMO seeds accounted for 80% of the USA’s total corn acreage, and today that number is even higher. One reason for Monsanto’s immense success in the seed business is their creative use of patents on their seeds. Farmers who plant Monsanto’s GMO seeds are subject to strict rules about what they can actually do with them. They’re not allowed, for example, to replant these seeds, nor to sell or share them with anyone else, thus ensuring that Monsanto’s revenue remains stable and growing. The language of these rules is so convoluted that farmers could potentially be found liable even in cases when the wind randomly blows Monsanto seeds from a neighbor’s farm. To complete its transformation into an agricultural behemoth, in 1997 Monsanto spun off the entirety of its chemical business into a separate company called Solutia. This was Monsanto’s attempt at a fresh start, and on their website they even claim to be a relatively new company that just happens to share the same name with its polluting predecessor. Of course, this was all for show, as the new Monsanto’s executives were the same people that had led the old company for decades. What they did with Solutia was to essentially try to wash their hands of Monsanto’s morally-questionable past. Solutia inherited not only the struggling chemical business, but also the majority of litigation relating to Monsanto’s PCBs and other industrial pollutants. It probably won’t come as a surprise that just six years later Solutia filed for bankruptcy, only to be eventually swallowed up by the Eastman Chemical Company. The new Monsanto, of course, has been incapable of shaking off its bad reputation, but that hasn’t stopped it’s global expansion. Today it is bigger than ever, with 15 billion dollars of revenue just from last year alone. About half of that money, by the way, came from the sales of the Roundup pesticide and the GMO seeds resistant to it. It’s sad how despite all the boycotting and controversies, Monsanto’s products are so ingrained in modern agriculture that there’s no getting rid of them. By all accounts Monsanto is here to stay, but it’s actually very possible that they’ll soon stop being an independent company. Germany’s pharmaceutical titan Bayer, on which we’ve also done a video, by the way, had been trying to acquire Monsanto for the past four months. Just a few days ago Monsanto accepted a $66 billion dollar all-cash offer, which still needs regulatory approval, sure, but consider this: in the past 14 months we’ve seen the mergers of six of the biggest companies in the industry, and so far analysts are giving the Bayer-Monsanto merger a 50% chance of going through. Even if the merger fails though, it’s very hard to be optimistic about a Monsanto-free future. From an investment point of view it would make sense to buy shares of the company that controls the world’s food supply, but sometimes it’s better to forego revenue in order to actually make the world a better place. Hi there! I hope you liked the video despite the rather questionable nature of the subject. I can tell you that making this video was not easy. I mean here at Business Casual we try to take an objective look at companies we cover, which tends works most of the time, but when you’ve got a corporation like Monsanto that’s, you know, literally Hitler for most people, remaining neutral can get a little bit harder. Nevertheless, it was pretty interesting learning how they became the giant that they are today. If you’d like to see another video of ours you can click in the top right corner to watch the history of Boeing, from the time of the Wright brothers to the Second Space Race. To watch the full Behind the Business series, you can click in the bottom right corner to access our main playlist, and if you’d like to subscribe to our channel you can do so by clicking over there in the middle right. Once again, thanks a lot for watching, and as always: stay smart.

Contents

Patent litigation

Monsanto was one of the first companies to apply the biotechnology industry business model to agriculture, using techniques developed by Genentech and other biotech drug companies in the late 1970s in California.[4]:2–6 In this business model, companies invest heavily in research and development, and recoup the expenses through the use and enforcement of biological patents.[5][6][7][8]

As plaintiff

In 1969, Monsanto sued Rohm and Haas for infringement of Monsanto's patent for the herbicide propanil. In Monsanto Co. v. Rohm and Haas Co., the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Monsanto on the basis that the company had fraudulently procured the patent it sought to enforce.[9][10]

Since the mid‑1990s, Monsanto indicates that it has filed suit against 145 individual U.S. farmers for patent infringement and/or breach of contract in connection with its genetically engineered seed but has proceeded through trial against only eleven farmers, all of which it won.[11][12] The Center for Food Safety has listed 90 lawsuits through 2004 by Monsanto against farmers for claims of seed patent violations.[citation needed] Monsanto defends its patents and their use, explaining that patents are necessary to ensure that it is paid for its products and for all the investments it puts into developing products. As it argues, the principle behind a farmer’s seed contract is simple: a business must be paid for its product., but that a very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. While many lawsuits involve breach of Monsanto's Technology Agreement, farmers who have not signed this type of contract, but do use the patented seed, can also be found liable for violating Monsanto's patent.[13][14] That said, Monsanto has stated it will not "exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means."[15] The Federal Circuit found that this assurance is binding on Monsanto, so that farmers who do not harvest more than a trace amount of Monsanto's patented crops "lack an essential element of standing" to challenge Monsanto's patents.[16]

The usual Monsanto claim involves patent infringement by intentionally replanting patented seed. Such activity was found by the United States Supreme Court to constitute patent infringement in Bowman v. Monsanto Co. (2013).[13] The case began in 2007, when Monsanto sued Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman who in 1999 bought seed for his second planting from a grain elevator – the same elevator to which he and others sold their transgenic crops.[17] The elevator sold the soybeans as commodities, not as seeds for planting.[17][18] Bowman tested the new seeds, and found that ,as he had expected, some were resistant to glyphosate. He intentionally replanted his harvest of GM seeds in subsequent years, supplementing them with more soybeans he bought at the elevator.[17] He informed Monsanto of his activities.[17] Monsanto stated that he was infringing their patents because the soybeans he bought from the elevator were new products that he purchased for use as seeds without a license from Monsanto; Bowman stated that he had not infringed due to patent exhaustion on the first sale of seed to whatever farmers had produced the crops that he bought from the elevator, on the grounds that for seed, all future generations are embodied in the first generation that was originally sold.[18] In 2009 the district court ruled in favor of Monsanto; on appeal, the Federal Circuit upheld the verdict.[17] Bowman appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which granted review,[19] then unanimously affirmed the Federal Circuit on May 13, 2013.[13][20]

The Supreme Court of Canada had issued a similar decision in Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (2004).[21] That case concerned Percy Schmeiser, who claimed to have discovered that some canola growing on his farm in 1997 was Roundup resistant. Schmeiser harvested the seed from the Roundup resistant plants, and planted the seed in 1998. Monsanto sued Schmeiser for patent infringement for the 1998 planting. Schmeiser claimed that because the 1997 plants grew from seed that was pollinated with pollen blown into his field from neighboring fields, he owned the harvest and was entitled to do with it whatever he wished, including saving the seeds from the 1997 harvest and planting them in 1998. The initial Canadian Federal Court rejected Schmeiser's defense and held for Monsanto, finding that in 1998 Schmeiser had intentionally planted the seeds he had harvested from the wind-seeded crops in 1997, and so patent infringement had indeed occurred.[22] Schmeiser appealed and lost again.[23] Schmeiser appealed to the Supreme Court which took the case and held for Monsanto by a 5‑4 vote in late May 2004.[21] Schmeiser won a partial victory, as the Supreme Court reversed on damages, finding that because Schmeiser did not gain any profit from the infringement, he did not owe Monsanto any damages nor did he have to pay Monsanto's substantial legal bills. The case caused Monsanto's enforcement tactics to be highlighted in the media over the years it took to play out.[24] The case is widely cited or referenced by the anti-GM community in the context of a fear of a company claiming ownership of a farmer’s crop based on the inadvertent presence of GM pollen grain or seed.[25][26] "The court record shows, however, that it was not just a few seeds from a passing truck, but that Mr Schmeiser was growing a crop of 95–98% pure Roundup Ready plants, a commercial level of purity far higher than one would expect from inadvertent or accidental presence. The judge could not account for how a few wayward seeds or pollen grains could come to dominate hundreds of acres without Mr Schmeiser’s active participation, saying ‘...none of the suggested sources could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality evident from the results of tests on Schmeiser’s crop’" – in other words, the original presence of Monsanto seed on his land in 1997 was indeed inadvertent, but the crop in 1998 was entirely purposeful.[27]

Monsanto has also successfully sued grain elevators that clean seeds for farmers to replant of inducing patent infringement. For example, Monsanto sued the Pilot Grove Cooperative Elevator in Pilot Grove, Missouri, which had been cleaning conventional seeds for decades before the issuance of the patent that covered genetically engineered seeds.[28] Similarly, a seed cleaner from Indiana, Maurice Parr, was sued by Monsanto for inducing farmers to save seeds in violation of Monsanto’s patent rights. Parr told his customers that cleaning patented seeds for replanting was not infringing activity. The case was settled and in exchange for paying no monetary damages, Parr agreed to an injunction requiring Parr to obtain certification from his clients that their seeds were not Monsanto patented seeds and to advise clients that seed saving of patented seeds is illegal.[29][30] Mr. Parr was featured in a documentary, Food, Inc.

In one case, a farmer committed misconduct while defending a Monsanto lawsuit, which resulted in criminal penalties. In 2003, a farmer received a four-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $165,649 in restitution after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud during litigation with Monsanto.[31][32] The same farmer was ordered to pay nearly $3 million in a civil action brought by Monsanto after a jury found him liable for $803,402 damages, which the judge trebled due to willful infringement, added attorneys fees and sanctions for misconduct, all of which were affirmed by the Federal Circuit.[32][33] Such damages may not be relieved through bankruptcy; in one case where a farmer was found to be willfully infringing Monsanto's patent, the damages awarded to Monsanto were found to be non-dischargeable in the farmer’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as they "fell within the Bankruptcy Act’s exception for willful and malicious injuries."[34][35]

Monsanto has been criticized for a mistaken lawsuit. In 2002, Monsanto mistakenly sued Gary Rinehart of Eagleville, Missouri for patent violation. Rinehart was not a farmer or seed dealer, but sharecropped land with his brother and nephew, who were violating the patent. Monsanto dropped the lawsuit against him when it discovered the mistake. It did not apologize for the mistake or offer to pay Rinehart's attorney fees.[28]

In 2009, Monsanto sued DuPont Pioneer for patent infringement of Roundup Ready patents.[36] DuPont had licensed the patents from Monsanto already, but had added additional glyphosate-resistance genes to its seed, which Monsanto claimed was not allowed in the license. DuPont counter-sued, claiming that Monsanto's patent was invalid. The jury handed down a verdict on August 1, 2012, finding that DuPont not only infringed, but willfully infringed, and awarded a verdict of $1 billion, the fourth-largest patent verdict in the history of the United States.[37] DuPont indicated it would appeal, but settled in 2013.[38]

In 2016, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against its former computer programmer Jiunn-Ren Chen, alleging that he stole files from its systems.[39]

As defendant

The Public Patent Foundation has unsuccessfully attempted to invalidate several Monsanto patents. In 2006, the foundation filed for ex parte reexamination of four patents, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) granted.[40] However, by 2008 the PTO had confirmed the validity of all four patents, with minor amendments to two patents,[41] and allowing new patent claims to issue for the other two patents.[42] In 2011 the Public Patent Foundation filed claims in the Southern District of New York challenging the validity of 23 of Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed, on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and 82 other farming associations.[43] The group contended that they were being forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed.[44] Monsanto moved for dismissal, citing a public pledge it made not to "exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means."[15][45] District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed the lawsuit in 2012, and criticized the plaintiffs in her order for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists."[45][46] In June 2013, the Federal Circuit affirmed the District Court decision.[16][47] The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in January 2014.[48]

In February 2012, two NGOs, Navdanya and No Patent on Seeds, filed documents opposing an EU patent awarded to Monsanto covering virus resistant traits of melons.[49] They were joined by Bayer Cropscience.[50] Monsanto had acquired DeRuiter, a seed company, in 2008, which originally filed the patent application.[51] The activists' claim it was not an invention of Monsanto but rather bio-piracy, because the virus-resistant plants originated in India and were registered in international seed banks; they further claimed that conventional breeding methods were used to transfer the virus resistance genes from an Indian melon to other melons and that European law prohibits patents on conventional breeding.[52] The European Patent Office created a page on its website to explain the case.[50]

Chemical pollution

Monsanto presently operates as an agricultural company, but it was founded in 1901 as a chemical company. In 1997 Monsanto split the chemical sector of its business into an independent company, Solutia Inc.[53] In 2008 Monsanto agreed “to assume financial responsibility for all litigation relating to property damage, personal injury, products liability or premises liability or other damages related to asbestos, PCB, dioxin, benzene, vinyl chloride and other chemicals manufactured before the Solutia Spin-off.”[54][55]

Agent Orange

In 1980, the first US Agent Orange class-action lawsuit was filed for the injuries military personnel in Vietnam suffered through exposure to dioxins in the defoliant.[56] The chemical companies involved denied that there was a link between Agent Orange and the veterans' medical problems. On May 7, 1984, seven chemical companies settled the class-action suit out of court just hours before jury selection was to begin, offering $180 million as compensation if the veterans dropped all claims against them.[57] Slightly over 45% of the sum was ordered to be paid by Monsanto alone.[58]

In 2004, Monsanto, along with Dow and other chemical companies, were sued in a US court by a group of Vietnamese for the effects of its Agent Orange defoliant, used by the US military in the Vietnam War.[59][60] The case was dismissed, and plaintiffs appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which also denied the appeal.

After seven years of litigation, in 2013 Monsanto reached a settlement with the town of Nitro, West Virginia, agreeing to pay $93 million for compensatory damages, cleanup, and ongoing monitoring of dioxin contamination in the area around a plant where Agent Orange was made.[61]

Dioxin

In a case that ran from February 1984 through October 1987, Monsanto was the defendant in the longest civil jury trial in U.S. history, Kemner v. Monsanto. The case involved a group of plaintiffs who claimed to have been poisoned by dioxin in 1979 when a train derailed in Sturgeon, Missouri. Tank cars on the train carried a chemical used to make wood preservatives and "small quantities of a dioxin called 2, 3, 7, 8, TCDD... formed as a part of the manufacturing process."[62] The initial outcome was mixed. "The jurors, after deliberating more than two months, agreed with Monsanto that the plaintiffs had suffered no physical harm from exposure to dioxin. But they accepted the plaintiffs' argument that Monsanto had failed to alter its manufacturing process to eliminate dioxin as a byproduct and that it had failed to warn the public about dioxin's harmfulness. Most of the plaintiffs were awarded only one dollar each for actual losses, but they were awarded $16.2 million in punitive damages."[63] Monsanto appealed the judgments and won on all counts.[62]

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

In the early 1990s, Monsanto faced several lawsuits over harm caused by PCBs from workers at companies such as Westinghouse that bought PCBs from Monsanto and used them to build electrical equipment.[64] Monsanto and its customers, such as Westinghouse and GE, also faced litigation from third parties, such as workers at scrap yards that bought used electrical equipment and broke them down to reclaim valuable metals.[65][66] Monsanto settled some of these cases and won the others, on the grounds that it had clearly told its customers that PCBs were dangerous chemicals and that protective procedures needed to be implemented.[citation needed]

In 2003, Monsanto and Solutia Inc., a Monsanto corporate spin-off, reached a $700 million settlement with the residents of West Anniston, Alabama who had been affected by the manufacturing and dumping of PCBs.[67][68] In a trial lasting six weeks, the jury found that "Monsanto had engaged in outrageous behavior, and held the corporations and its corporate successors liable on all six counts it considered - including negligence, nuisance, wantonness and suppression of the truth."[69]

In 2014, the Los Angeles Superior Court found that Monsanto was not liable for cancers claimed to be from PCBs permeating the food supply of three plaintiffs who had developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. After a four-week trial, the jury found that Monsanto’s production and sale of PCBs between 1935 and 1977 were not substantial causes of the cancer.[70]

In 2015, the cities of Spokane, San Diego, and San Jose initiated lawsuits against Monsanto to recover cleanup costs for PCB contaminated sites, alleging that Monsanto continued to sell PCBs without adequate warnings after they knew of their toxicity. Monsanto issued a media statement concerning the San Diego case, claiming that improper use or disposal by third-parties, of a lawfully sold product, was not the company's responsibility.[71][72][73][74]

In July 2015, a St Louis county court in Missouri found that Monsanto, Solutia, Pharmacia and Pfizer were not liable for a series of deaths and injuries caused by PCBs manufactured by Monsanto Chemical Company until 1977. The trial took nearly a month and the jury took a day of deliberations to return a verdict against the plaintiffs from throughout the USA.[75][76] Similar cases are ongoing. "The evidence simply doesn’t support the assertion that the historic use of PCB products was the cause of the plaintiffs’ harms. We are confident that the jury will conclude, as two other juries have found in similar cases, that the former Monsanto Company is not responsible for the alleged injuries,” a Monsanto statement said.[77]

In May 2016, A Missouri state jury ordered Monsanto to pay $46.5 million in a case where 3 plaintiffs claimed PCB exposure caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[78][79]

In December 2016, the state of Washington filed suit in King County. The state sought damages and clean up costs related to PCBs.[80][81] In March 2018 Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also filed a lawsuit against Monsanto over health issues posed by PCBs.[82]

Alachlor

Transferring Monsanto's Lasso herbicide
Transferring Monsanto's Lasso herbicide

Alachlor is the second most widely used herbicide in the United States;[83] its use as a herbicide has been banned in the European Union.[84]

In 2012, a French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a farmer who had used the herbicide Lasso, a trade name for alachlor. This is the first such case to be heard in France and is considered "a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides."[85] In 2015 a French appeals court upheld the ruling and ordered the company to "fully compensate" the grower.[86]

RoundUp

Over 4,000 cancer patients are suing Monsanto in numerous state courts for failure to warn the public about the risk of cancer associated with glyphosate-based weedkiller RoundUp. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer published a report[87] linking glyphosate (the active ingredient in RoundUp) to cancer in humans. Monsanto denies that RoundUp is carcinogenic.[88][89]

There is limited evidence that human cancer risk might increase as a result of occupational exposure to large amounts of glyphosate, such as agricultural work, but no good evidence of such a risk from home use, such as in domestic gardening.[90] The consensus among national pesticide regulatory agencies and scientific organizations, including the European Commission, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is that labeled uses of glyphosate have demonstrated no evidence of human carcinogenicity.[citation needed][91][92] The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, has classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic in humans.[citation needed]

In 2016, Monsanto filed a lawsuit objecting to glyphosate being added to California's list of carcinogens.[93] In January 2017, the Fresno County Superior Court rejected the case. The state of California filed a motion to dismiss the case.[94] Monsanto appealed on March 22.[95]

In 2016, the Southern District of California ruled that Emanuel Giglio's cancer was not Monsanto's fault and that "FIFRA preempted Giglio's claim of a failure to warn the EPA about the dangers of glyphosate".[96]

In the In re: RoundUp Products Liability multidistrict litigation (MDL) a Daubert hearing was held in March 2018 on general causation as to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.[97] This case consolidated over 300 federal lawsuits that allege Monsanto did not adequately warn consumers about the risks of using RoundUp. These lawsuits were filed after the International Agency for Research on Cancer released an assessment in 2015 that glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp, was "probably carcinogenic" to humans. Monsanto argued that plaintiff's claims were based on "junk science" and sought a summary judgment dismissing the cases. [98] On June 7, 2018, Monsanto was acquired by the German company Bayer. In July 2018, the federal court judge overseeing the cases ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed with their lawsuits, finding that a reasonable jury could conclude that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans. Monsanto's motion for summary judgment was denied. [99]

In March 2017, 40 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Alameda County Superior Court, a branch of the California Superior Court, against Monsanto alleging damages related to certain forms of cancer caused by Monsanto's Roundup product.[100] On August 10, 2018, Dewayne Johnson won the first jury case against Monsanto based on a causal link between Roundup and Johnson's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The jury awarded Johnson $289 million in actual and punitive damages against Monsanto, and found that Monsanto acted maliciously by failing to warn consumers of cancer risks posed by the herbicide.[101] Monsanto plans to appeal the verdict based on its claim that the judge improperly admitted scientific evidence presented on behalf of Johnson. [102][103]

Right to privacy

In May 2019, Le Monde and France 2 announced that they had a copy of the "Monsanto France database" that the PR firm Fleishman-Hillard compiled in 2016, the year after the IARC classification of glyphosate. These tables listed private data concerning journalists, scientists and politicians who were evaluated on a scale of 1-5 concerning their political opinions on, for example, "agriculture, pesticides, GMOs, and health... ."[104] Le Monde & Stéphane Foucart filed a legal complaint in the High Court of Paris on 26 April based in part upon the right to privacy.[105] Le Parisien announced it would file a complaint with the CNIL[106] and Radio France is preparing legal action, as are a Eurodeputy and the NGO Foodwatch. Ecological Transition Minister François de Rugy said he was not 'surprised' that corporations today appear to finance methods more reminiscent of foreign intelligence agencies.[107]

Dicamba

Arkansas and Missouri banned the sale and use of the pesticide dicamba in July 2017 in response to complaints of crop damage due to drift.[108] In response, Monsanto, a producer of dicamba, sued the state of Arkansas to stop the ban; this lawsuit was dismissed in February 2018.[109]

Other legal actions

In 2005, the US DOJ filed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement[110] in which Monsanto admitted to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1) and making false entries into its books and records (15 U.S.C § 78m(b)(2) & (5)). Monsanto also agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine. The case involved bribes paid to an Indonesian official.[111] Monsanto admitted a senior manager at Monsanto directed an Indonesian consulting firm to give a $50,000 bribe to a high-level official in Indonesia's environment ministry in 2002 related to the agency's assessment on its genetically modified cotton. Monsanto told the company to disguise an invoice for the bribe as "consulting fees". Monsanto also has admitted to paying bribes to a number of other high-ranking Indonesian officials between 1997 and 2002. On March 5, 2008, the deferred prosecution agreement against Monsanto was dismissed with prejudice (unopposed by the Department of Justice) by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, thereby indicating that Monsanto had complied fully with the terms of the agreement.

In 2014, Monsanto reached a settlement with soft wheat farmers over the 2013 discovery of experimental glyphosate-resistant wheat in a field in Oregon which had led to South Korea and Japan temporarily stopping some US wheat importation. The settlement included the establishment of a $2.125 million fund for economically affected soft-wheat farmers.[112]

As plaintiff or appellant

In 2003, Monsanto sued Oakhurst Dairy over Oakhurst's label on its milk cartons that said "Our farmer's pledge: no artificial hormones," referring to the use of bovine somatotropin (rBST).[113] Monsanto argued that the label implied that Oakhurst milk was superior to milk from cows treated with rBST, which harmed Monsanto's business.[113] The two companies settled out of court, and it was announced that Oakhurst would add the word "used" at the end of its label, and note that the U.S. FDA claims there is no major difference between milk from rBST-treated and non rBST-treated cows.[114]

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in case known as Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms.[115] The case concerned an injunction against the planting of Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA).[116] In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had deregulated RRA based on an Environmental Assessment (EA) of Monsanto's RRA.[117] In 2006, Geertson Seed Farm and others filed suit in a California district court against the APHIS' deregulation of RRA.[118] The district court disallowed APHIS' deregulation of RRA and issued an injunction against any new planting of RRA pending the preparation of a much more extensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).[119] The court also refused to allow a partial deregulation.[115] Monsanto and others appealed that decision and lost,[120] then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision. They stated that before a court disallows a partial deregulation, a plaintiff must show that it has suffered irreparable injury. "The District Court abused its discretion in enjoining APHIS from effecting a partial deregulation and in prohibiting the planting of RRA pending the agency’s completion of its detailed environmental review."[115] The Supreme court did not consider the district court's ruling disallowing RRA's deregulation and consequently RRA was still a regulated crop waiting for APHIS's completion of an EIS.[115] At the time, both sides claimed victory.[121] This was the first ruling of the United States Supreme Court on genetically engineered crops.[122] After APHIS prepared an Environmental Impact Statement for RRA, in 2012 it was deregulated again.[123]

On January 23, 2008, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and the Organic Seed Alliance and High Mowing Seeds filed a lawsuit against USDA-APHIS regarding their decision to deregulate a glyphosate-resistant sugar beet developed by Monsanto and KWS SAAT AG in 2005. The organizations expressed concerns regarding glyphosate-resistant sugar beets' ability to potentially cross pollinate with conventional sugar beet.[124] On September 21, 2009, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that USDA-APHIS had violated Federal law in deregulating glyphosate-resistant sugar beet[124] and on August 13, 2010, he ruled further, revoking the deregulation of glyphosate-resistant sugar beet and declaring it unlawful for growers to plant glyphosate-resistant sugar beet in the spring of 2011. As a result of this ruling, growers were permitted to harvest and process their crop at the end of the 2010 growing season, yet a ban on new plantings was enacted. After Judge White's ruling, USDA-APHIS prepared an Environmental Assessment seeking partial deregulation of glyphosate-resistant sugar beet and allowed GM seedlings to be planted.[125] In November 2010, in response to a suit by the original parties, Judge White ordered the destruction of the plantings.[126] In February 2011, a federal appeals court for the Northern district of California in San Francisco, citing the Supreme Court's 2010 decision on RRA, overturned the ruling, concluding that "The Plaintiffs have failed to show a likelihood of irreparable injury. Biology, geography, field experience, and permit restrictions make irreparable injury unlikely."[127] APHIS developed requirements that growers had to follow if handling glyphosate-resistant sugar beet while it was regulated. In July 2012, after completing an Environmental Impact Assessment and a Plant Pest Risk Assessment the USDA deregulated Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beets again.[128]

Investigations

2009 antitrust investigation

In 2009, Monsanto came under scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice, which began investigating whether the company's activities in the soybean markets were breaking anti-trust rules.[129][130] In 2010, the Department of Justice created a website through which comments on "Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy" could be submitted; over 15,000 comments were submitted including a letter by 14 State Attorneys General. The comments are publicly available.[131] On November 16, 2012, Monsanto announced that it had received written notification from the U.S. Department of Justice that the Antitrust Division had concluded its inquiry and that the Department of Justice had closed the inquiry without taking any enforcement action.[132][133] Opponents of Monsanto's seed patenting and licensing practices expressed frustration that the Department of Justice released no information about the results of the inquiry.[134]

Brofiscin Quarry

Brofiscin Quarry was used as a waste site from about 1965 to 1972 and accepted waste from BP, Veolia, and Monsanto.[135][136] A 2005 report by Environmental Agency Wales found that the quarry contained up to 75 toxic substances, including heavy metals, Agent Orange, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).[135][137] Environmental Agency of the UK investigated who the "responsible parties" were who should be held liable for clean up costs, and in February 2011, the Guardian reported that Monsanto had agreed to help with the costs of remediation, but did not accept responsibility for the pollution.[138] A webpage at the Environmental Agency site put up at around that time stated: "We have completed our extensive enquiries to identify those we consider should be held responsible under the contaminated land laws and be held liable for the cost of remediating Brofiscin Quarry. We are at an advanced stage in our consultations with BP, Veolia and Monsanto to provide them with the opportunity to help remediate the land on a voluntary basis. We expect to make further progress on this matter in the next few months. If this approach is unsuccessful, we have the power to carry out the work needed ourselves and recover our costs. The three companies have been identified under the legislation as inheriting the liabilities of companies who were associated with depositing wastes at the quarry."[139] The three companies reached settlements to cover the cleanup cost, according to an announcement by Natural Resources Wales in July 2015.[140]

SEC Investigation

In February 2016, Monsanto agreed to pay a $80 million settlement after a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation found that Monsanto had misstated its earnings in filings over a 3-year period. The misleading statements were connected to Monsanto's failure to fully account for the costs involved in their Roundup rebate programs.[141]

Not a party, but involved

1997 WTVT news story

This is a case where Monsanto was not a party, but was alleged to have been involved in the events under dispute. In 1997, the news division of WTVT (Channel 13), a Foxowned station in Tampa, Florida, planned to air an investigative report by Steve Wilson and Jane Akre on the health risks allegedly associated with Monsanto's bovine growth hormone product, Posilac.[142] Just before the story was to air, Fox received a threatening letter from Monsanto, saying the reporters were biased and that the story would damage the company.[142] Fox tried to work with the reporters to address Monsanto's concerns, and the negotiations between Fox and the reporters broke down.[142] Both reporters were eventually fired. Wilson and Akre alleged the firing was for retaliation, while WTVT contended they were fired for insubordination. The reporters then sued Fox/WTVT in Florida state court under the state's whistleblower statute. In 2000, a Florida jury found that while there was no evidence Fox/WTVT had bowed to any pressure from Monsanto to alter the story, Akre, but not Wilson, was a whistleblower and was unjustly fired.[142] Fox appealed the decision stating that under Florida law, a whistleblower can only act if "a law, rule, or regulation”" has been broken and argued that the FCC's news distortion policy did not fit that definition.[143] The appeals court overturned the verdict, finding that Akre was not a whistleblower because of the Florida "legislature's requirement that agency statements that fit the definition of a “rule” (must) be formally adopted (rules). Recognizing an uncodified agency policy developed through the adjudicative process as the equivalent of a formally adopted rule is not consistent with this policy, and it would expand the scope of conduct that could subject an employer to liability beyond what Florida's Legislature could have contemplated when it enacted the whistle-blower's statute."

Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories scandal

In 1981, four executives of Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories(IBT), an American contract research organization were indicted in federal court on various counts including scientific misconduct and fraud, and were convicted in 1983.[144] IBT was an industrial product safety testing laboratory that was used by pharmaceutical companies, chemical manufacturers and other industrial clients, operated one of the largest facility of its kind in the US, and performed more than one-third of all toxicology testing in the United States.[145] One of the convicted executives was Paul Wright, a toxicologist, who had spent 18 months at IBT in the 1970s while IBT was testing an antimicrobial product that Monsanto was developing, triclocarban(TCC).[146] The revelations of misconduct by IBT Labs led to the establishment of Good Laboratory Practice standards and regulations for industrial testing.[147]

In 1991, Philip Smith, a former assistant toxicologist at IBT, testified in a trial in which Monsanto was being sued by workers at Westinghouse over PCBs, that final toxicology reports on PCBs provided to Monsanto by IBT contained falsified data.[148]

Asgrow

In late 2006, the Correctional Tribunal of Carcassonne, France, ordered two directors of Monsanto subsidiary Asgrow to pay a €15,000 fine related to their knowledge of the presence of unauthorized genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in bags of seeds imported by Asgrow on April 13, 2000.[149]

False advertising

In 1996, the New York Times reported that: "Dennis C. Vacco, the Attorney General of New York, ordered the company to pull ads that said Roundup was "safer than table salt" and "practically nontoxic" to mammals, birds and fish. The company withdrew the spots, but also said that the phrase in question was permissible under E.P.A. guidelines."[150]

In 1999, Monsanto was condemned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making "confusing, misleading, unproven and wrong" claims about its products over the course of a £1 million advertising campaign. The ASA ruled that Monsanto had presented its opinions "as accepted fact" and had published "wrong" and "unproven" scientific claims.[151] Monsanto responded with an apology and claimed it was not intending to deceive and instead "did not take sufficiently into account the difference in culture between the UK and the USA in the way some of this information was presented."[152][153]

In 2001, French environmental and consumer rights campaigners brought a case against Monsanto for misleading the public about the environmental impact of its herbicide Roundup, on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" and "toxic for aquatic organisms" by the European Union. Monsanto's advertising for Roundup had presented it as biodegradable and as leaving the soil clean after use. In 2007, Monsanto was convicted of false advertising and was fined 15,000 euros. Monsanto's French distributor Scotts France was also fined 15,000 euros. Both defendants were ordered to pay damages of 5,000 euros to the Brittany Water and Rivers Association and 3,000 euros to the CLCV (Consommation Logement Cadre de vie), one of the two main general consumer associations in France.[154] Monsanto appealed and the court upheld the verdict; Monsanto appealed again to the French Supreme Court, and in 2009 it also upheld the verdict.[155]

In August 2012, a Brazilian Regional Federal Court ordered Monsanto to pay a $250,000 fine for false advertising. In 2004, advertising that related to the use of GM soya seed, and the herbicide glyphosate used in its cultivation, claimed it was beneficial to the conservation of the environment. The federal prosecutor maintained that Monsanto misrepresented the amount of herbicide required and stated that "there is no scientific certainty that soybeans marketed by Monsanto use less herbicide." The presiding judge condemned Monsanto and called the advertisement "abusive and misleading propaganda." The prosecutor held that the goal of the advertising was to prepare the market for the purchase of genetically modified soybean seed (sale of which was then banned) and the herbicide used on it, at a time when the approval of a Brazilian Biosafety Law, enacted in 2005, was being discussed in the country.[156][157]

In March 2014, the South African Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint, made by the African Centre for Biosafety, that Monsanto had made "unsubstantiated" claims about genetically modified crops in its radio advertisements, and ordered that these adverts be pulled.[158] In March 2015 after considering further documentation from Monsanto, the ASA reversed its ruling.[159][160]

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