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The Right to Safe Food = Right to Life

The Monsanto Tribunal’s Legal Opinion reinforces movements’ struggle for basic human rights

Monsanto Tribunal releases its findings: Monsanto’s activities undermine basic human rights, victims of multinational corporations need better protective regulations and international courts should recognize ecocide as a crime.

The Monsanto Tribunal of international judges presented in The Hague their legal opinion after 6 months of analysing the testimonies of more than 30 witnesses, lawyers and experts. Their conclusions are that Monsanto’s practices undermine basic human rights and  the right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, it calls for better protective regulations for victims of multinational corporations and concludes that International law should clearly assert the protection of the environment and ‘ecocide’ as a crime.

The Tribunal focused on the widening gap between international human rights law and corporate accountability noting that the legal provisions in place which protect investors’ rights tend to undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human and environmental rights.   The Judges underscore the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law in the international legal framework and concluded that urgent action needs to be taken by the UN to avoid that key questions be resolved by private tribunals operating entirely outside the international framework.  Furthermore, the Tribunal reiterates that multinational enterprises should be held accountable for their actions and be subjected to the International Criminal Court jurisdiction in cases of infringement of fundamental rights.  It also found that Monsanto’s conduct has seriously undermined the right to freedom indispensable for scientific research.

This ground-breaking advisory opinion reinforces what movements, farmers, citizens all over the world have been contending for decades. The industrial model of agriculture, based on monocultures, extensive use of chemicals and genetically modified seeds, together with the economic model of free trade neoliberal policies and deregulation of commerce, is damaging our health and destroying our ecosystems, our soils, water and biodiversity and is a major contributor to climate change.  It is poisoning the Earth and millions of people, pushing small farmers off the land, allowing corporations to establish monopolies and take control of our seed and food –  while producing only a small fraction of the planet’s food

The future of our food lies in the hands of small farmers, producers of the majority of the planet’s food, poison-free, biodiverse and nourishing food.  It is this ecological model of agriculture which offers the solution to poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the world and to the crisis of climate change.

The Tribunal’s findings are a decisive blow to corporate power and underscores the importance of the work of thousands of activists, farmers, consumers and citizens around the world in the fight for a future of food free from toxics, GMOs, patents and corporate control.

The Monsanto Tribunal is not only critical of the corporation’s activities throughout the world but points to further dangers of wider corporate control and monopoly ahead through mergers, acquisitions and agreements between giant corporations such as Monsanto-Bayer, Dow-Dupont, and Syngenta ChemChina which will result in a cartel of 3 giant seed/agro/chemical companies controlling our food and agriculture with further major negative impact on the rights of farmers and consumers, robbing them of their rights to seed and food sovereignty, with increased destruction of our biodiversity, pluralism and democracy, the systems that protect our food, health and livelihoods.

The Monsanto Tribunal confirmed how poisonous products and toxic chemicals such as Round Up (Glyphosate) & Basta (Glufosinate), neonicotinoids, atrazine, and other pesticides  have led to the destruction of soils, to desertification, to the extermination of bees, to the rise in health epidemics such as cancer, birth defects, and respiratory disease, to name just a few. They are contaminating people by polluting areas and poisoning our food systems.  The recent UN’s Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, provides a clear account on the negative effects of global pesticide use in agriculture and its impact on human rights. Last September, the International Criminal Court declared it would prioritise crimes that result in the “destruction of the environment”, “exploitation of natural resources” and the “illegal dispossession” of land and that it would now take many crimes that have been traditionally under-prosecuted into consideration. The ICC , though not formally extending its jurisdiction, will assess existing offences, such as crimes against humanity, in a broader context.

The advisory opinion of the Monsanto Tribunal is a moral resolution and confirms the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law in the international legal framework. International law should now precisely and clearly assert the protection of the environment and the crime of ecocide. The Tribunal concludes that if such a crime of Ecocide were recognized in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide. Civil society movements now have a new instrument and an eminent legal advisory opinion to enforce their actions to defend the rights of the Earth and of people.  

Background and upcoming actions

The process of holding the “Poison Cartel” accountable for its crimes, which led to the Monsanto Tribunal,  was the culmination of 30 years of scientific, legal, social, and political work by movements, concerned citizens and scientists.

While courts can investigate crimes of the poison cartel, and this is important for justice, people have the power to change the way we grow our food.

Alongside the Monsanto Tribunal, a People’s Assembly was also held in Hague, last October. It was a gathering of leading movements and activists working to defend our ecosystem and food sovereignty, to lay out the effects of industrial agrochemicals on our lives, our soils, our atmosphere and climate, as well as to chart the road to our future based on Seed Freedom and Food Freedom, agroecology and farmers rights, our commons and economies of sharing, rights of nature and earth democracy. In the same days, People’s Assemblies have been self-organized by local communities throughout the world to establish a worldwide network in order to create a healthy future of food and of the planet.

Last year, on 16 October 2016, World Food Day, the voices of the soil, of the seeds, of farmers, consumers, and of people from all over world expressed their verdict:

Monsanto and the Poison Cartel are guilty of crimes against our planet and humanity. The poison making industry is destroying life on Earth, our health and our democracies. The People’s Assembly resolved to end a century of ecocide and genocide.

As multinationals are closing ranks through mergers to become bigger and more powerful, civil society movements gathered at the People’s Assembly have committed to joining forces to reclaim people’s rights to healthy food and a healthy and safe environment and to defend human rights and environmental rights and regulations gained through years of social struggle.

In 2016 more than 1100 People’s Assemblies took place in 28 countries to join forces and collectively defend our Seed Freedom, Food Freedom and Democratic Rights to shape the future of food that protects life on Earth and the well-being of all.

This global mobilization is now continuing and movements across the world are converging in a new unity across diversity to end a century of ecocide and genocide.

As a response to the series of announced mergers of chemical-based giant corporations, the Monsanto/Bayer merger being the latest, Navdanya is organizing multiple actions over the next months.

Over the last months Navdanya has joined the widespread opposition against poisons in our food system and is calling citizens throughout Europe to sign the European Citizens Initiative to #StopGlyphosate  and demand the EU to reform its pesticides approval procedures. At the Monsanto Tribunal several testimonies were given by witnesses from Europe, United States and Argentina about how the use of glyphosate based herbicides have affected their health and in many cases led to developing cancer. In Italy, towards the end of May Navdanya International will launch a Report on Poisons in our Plate, together with ASud and CDCA..

In India, Navdanya is challenging the process of corporate mergers by warning the governments on conflicts of interests and the dangers of too much concentration of power. At the same time this April, Navdanya has gathered  movements for democracy which are undertaking a Satyagraha Yatra, a pilgrimage for Seed Freedom and Food Freedom.

In Greece, from 20-22 April 2017, Navdanya will join Peliti at the Olympic Seed Freedom Festival along with people and organisations from all over the world.

In Germany, from 25 – 29 April 2017, along with the Coalition against Bayer Dangers eV, IFOAM Organics International, Colabora and many other civil society movements, Navdanya is co-organising a “Stop Bayer / Monsanto” mobilization which will converge in Bonn on April 28th, for a demonstration in front of the World Conference Center where the 2017 Bayer shareholders meeting will be held.

Never before has it been more critical for people to organize to stop the corporate takeover of our food, our health and our planet.

We invite you to join with people and communities around the globe, in this renewed  “Call to Action against the Corporate Takeover of our Food and Health” and organize a People’s Assembly wherever you are to shape another future of our food and our planet.  

Everywhere, we will make commitments to create a healthy future of food and of the planet. From the People’s Assemblies we will launch a boycott campaign, to liberate our seeds and soils, our communities and societies, our planet and ourselves, from poisons and the rule of the poison cartel.

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This press release is from Seed Freedom