The independent newspaper of London recently reported that the government of Vietnam Republic is demanding from the United States Chemical giant, Monsanto, to pay compensation to the victims of Agent Orange herbicide mixture, which the company supplied to the United States military during the Vietnam war in the late 1960s.
It came in response to the firm being ordered to pay S289m to Dewayne Johnson, a 46 year old California School grounds man who claims his use of its Roundup weed killer contributed to his terminal cancer.
“The verdict serves as a legal precedent which refutes previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto and other chemical corporations in the US and provided for the US army in the war are harmless,” Nguten Phuong Tra, a spokesman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry reportedly said,
The superior court jury deliberated for two and a half days before finding that Johnson’s non-Hodgkin Lymphoma was at least partly due to using glyphoste, the primary ingredient in Roundup. Johnson regularly used glyphosate to spray fields while working as a groundskeeper.
Monsanto “acted with malice, oppression or fraud and should be punished for its conduct,” Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos announced in court. Johnson’s doctors testifies he is unlikely to live past 2020. The 46 – Year Old Bay area resident worked for a California county school system and applied the weed killer up to 30 times per year as part of his pest – control responsibilities. During that period, he mixed and sprayed hundreds of gallons of the chemical.
“Today the jury confirmed what we have known since our investigation began – that Monsanto knew Roundup contained cancer – causing ingredient and failed to take this product off the shelf and protect consumers. The company chose corporate profit and geed above humanity, “said Micah Dortch of the Potts Law firm in Dallas. Although not involved in just concluded trial, the firm represents more than 100 clients currently with similar claims.
Agent orange is a chemical herbicide and defoliant used by the US military to deprive Viet Cong guerrilla fighters of food and concealment. Between 1961-1971 the US military reportedly sprayed around 12 million gallons of the chemical substances on over 30,000 miles of Southern Vietnam.
Dioxin, according to experts, is a toxic element of Agent Orange and had been linked to major health problems such as birth defects, cancers and other deadly diseases. Millions still suffer to this day, as deformities are passed down to the offspring of exposed victims including Vietnamese and American forces, The Red Cross estimates that three million Vietnamese wire been affected by dioxin including at least 150,000 children born with some birth defects. Millions of American and Vietnamese are still affected directly or indirectly by the war time spraying of Agent Orange and other herbicides over Southern and Central Vietnam.
Monsanto has argued that “the government set the specifications for making Agent Orange and determined when, where and how it was used. Agent Orange was only produced for and used by the government.” In a post on its website, the company founded in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1901 and later acquired by Bayer AG. It notes that it was one of the nine government contractors who manufactured the chemical.
The Vietnamese compensation payment initiative is receiving broad public support within the country and contributing to strengthening her international image. Monsanto had in the past sued the California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for adding glyphosate to a list of cancer causing chemicals and lost as there was conflicted evidence linking glyphosate and cancer.
The US Environmental protection Agency has gone back and forth on considering glyphosate a possible carcinogen. In its review of the chemical last year, it concluded glyphosate is likely not a carcinogen. But the World Health Organisation, WHO, has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic. Ken Cook, President of Environmental Working Group, a US. Environmental organisation that researches toxic chemicals and advocates for corporate accountability says “Monsanto made Roundup the oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost”
However inspite of the court verdict which is the first of several hundreds of lawsuits claiming Roundup causes cancer, and the green light given to proceed to trial, Monsanto supported by the US State Department and Pro-American NGOS continues to aggressively make and promote its products including its herbicides on the African market. Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s Vice – President said in a statement that the company will appeal the court verdict and will continue to vigorously defend this product which has a 40 – year history of safe use and continues to be a vital effective and safe tool for farmers and others, Nigeria’s Environmental Protection Agency must be alert to developments in the chemical industry as some of these herbicides namely Pendimenthalm, Roundup, Renew, Forceup, Buster, Galant NG etc are imported into the country and widely used as weed killers for farmers and others.
– Usman write from Abuja.
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