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Monsanto Agent Orange Past Continues to Haunt the Company

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Monsanto Agent Orange Past Continues to Haunt the Company

Many people these days recognize Monsanto as the massive corporation that maintains 95 percent control over the soybean market and nearly 80 percent control over the genetically engineered seed market.

Monsanto is famous for using every tactic in the book to crush all competition when it comes to agriculture and the farming industry.

We’ve covered Monsanto often in the past, specifically regarding the threat that the Monsanto monopoly poses to the U.S. and world food supply.

We recently covered the public survey conducted by the DoJ, where thousands of concerned citizens voiced their opposition against the Monsanto monopoly.

The threat isn’t so much from the amount of control that the massive corporation maintains over the seed industry, but from the ethical history of the company itself.

Monsanto has no qualms about funding “scientific” pesticide studies that show using Monsanto pesticides is safe, when other studies show that it isn’t. It also doesn’t hesitate to bribe foreign officials in an attempt to access foreign markets before competitors.

In fact, the trouble with Monsanto and its culture of ethics abuses goes back for many decades, back to when the company that now produces the seeds for the world’s food supply was one of the leading producers of Agent Orange – the defoliating chemical used to wipe out entire swatches of jungle during the Vietnam conflict.

Producing Chemical Weapons

There were a number of companies that produced dioxin-containing defoliants like Agent Orange during the time period of the Vietnam war. These included Monsanto, Dow, Diamond Shamrock, Hercules and others.

What made Monsanto stand out from many of the others was the company’s blatant disregard for both the environment and the local community when it decided to burn dioxin waste in an open pit at its Nitro plant in West Virginia.

nitro pollution

Residents of Nitro are actively pursuing a class action lawsuit against the company for the resulting illnesses and health problems associated with those pollutants that were distributed throughout the entire community. The suit lists 77 specific cases of cancer and illness caused by the releases from 1949 through 1970.

The complaint written by residents that are suing the company reads:

“During the years that Old Monsanto was operating it’s trichlorophenol plant, it adopted an unlawful practice of disposing of dioxin waste materials by a continuous process of open ‘pit’ burning. This practice was largely denied by Old Monsanto, whose representatives characterized the practice as an ‘incineration process’ when asked by regulatory authorities.

Old Monsanto and its successors … failed to adequately control the dioxin contaminated soils and other dioxin contaminated waste materials both on and off the plant site. Dioxins/furans continued to be re-deposited and re-distributed from the plant site and the off-site dumps so as to continue the process of air and property contamination.”

This violation, and subsequent lies about the activity, are a clear indication of the sort of corporate and company culture that Monsanto espouses in everything that it does.

agent orange vets

Previous Agent Orange Settlement

This isn’t the first lawsuit that Monsanto has had to deal with related to its work on producing the chemical weapon known as Agent Orange.

In 1978, Paul Reutershan filed a $10 million lawsuit against nearly all of the chemical companies that produced the defoliant weapon.

Paul had founded Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims, Inc, and his lawsuit was to obtain Agent Orange compensation for the fact that his exposure to the chemical defoliant caused his cancer.

Unfortunately, Paul died of his cancer on December 14th, 1978. However, the VVAOV took up the cause, and President Frank McCarthy convinced Victor Yannacone, Jr to carry on Paul’s mantle for justice.

The two filed a class action suit against Monsanto to cover all victims – including family members – that were physically impacted by the Agent Orange exposure suffered by Vietnam Veterans.

After a very long legal battle, where Veterans dismissed by Federal Courts, which did not want to rule on the case – including a 1981 Supreme Court decision stating that there was no Federal interest in the case.

However, once a new judge took over the bench at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the suit landed in the hands of the Plaintiff’s Management Committee (PMC) and its associated law firms, Monsanto and the other chemical companies agreed to a final settlement of $180 million in 1984.

In 1985, Judge Jack B. Weinstein created the Agent Orange Veteran Payment Program to distribute the Agent Orange compensation to the Veterans and families impacted by the exposures to the chemical defoliant weapon. Thanks to reinvestment of the funds, by 1989 the available resources for compensation to Veterans and their families was $330 million.


Monsanto Tries to Escape Responsibility

On September 28th of 2011, Monsanto attempted to escape the litigation surrounding the open pit-burning case of Nitro, West Virginia, by submitting a bid with the U.S. District Judge to close part of the lawsuit due to the fact that Monsanto was only serving as a government contractor in producing Agent Orange.

However, Judge Paul Gardephe was not buying it. In his summary judgement on the bid, the judge made it clear that the evidence shows Monsanto willfully and negligently burned dioxin wastes without properly informing authorities of the practice. Judge Gardephe wrote:

“Here, there is no evidence that the U.S. government was ever aware of the alleged open pit burning practice, much less that it had evaluated the hazard posed by such a practice. Because defendants have not demonstrated that the complained-of activity — the open pit burning of dioxin waste at the Nitro plant — was conducted ‘pursuant to reasonably precise government specifications,’ their motion for summary judgment based on the government contractor defense must be denied.”

In laymen’s terms, the Judge essentially told Monsanto that they would not escape the repercussions of their unethical activities, at least in the case of the open pit burning of dioxin waste that caused so many residents of Nitro, West Virginia to get terribly sick.

This decision is a sign that Monsanto’s terrible history in producing chemical weapons in the past may come back to bite the corporation once again.

It should also give all observers pause – is this the sort of company that should be trusted to produce America’s food supply?

References & Image Credits:
(3) Reuters
(4) The Record
Image Credits:
(6) U.S. News
(7) Veterans Today
(9) Light Brigading via Compfight cc

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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