HANOI, VIETNAM — After a landmark court case in California held Monsanto liable for the carcinogenic effects of its best-selling herbicide, glyphosate, things have only been getting worse for the corporate giant and its new parent company, Bayer.
Indeed, the $289 million court verdict has unleashed a slew of other related lawsuits related to Monsanto’s toxic legacy that could cost Bayer billions in the years ahead — specifically in California courtrooms, after California recently added the chemical to the Proposition 65 registry of carcinogenic agents. Just days after the verdict was issued, over 5,000 related lawsuits were filed against Monsanto. That figure has since surged to over 8,000 lawsuits.
Last week the news only grew more dire for Bayer and Monsanto, as the government of Vietnam announced that it would use the recent court verdict as a precedent to seek compensation from Monsanto for another chemical, Agent Orange.
Nguyen Phuong Tra, deputy foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters last Thursday:
The [recent] verdict serves as a legal precedent which refutes previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto and other chemical corporations in the U.S. and provided for the U.S. army in the war are harmless.
Vietnam has suffered tremendous consequences from the war, especially with regard to the lasting and devastating effects of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange.”
During the Vietnam War, Monsanto produced 12 million gallons of Agent Orange, along with other synthetic defoliants, as part of the U.S. military’s chemical-warfare campaign waged in the country from 1961 until 1971. Over that time frame, an area comparable to one-fourth of then-South Vietnam was contaminated with the chemicals and the natural environment destroyed. In addition, over 3 million Vietnamese were exposed to the chemical and its byproduct, dioxin, which has caused many of those exposed to suffer from a series of health problems, including deformities that continue to impact future generations.
Bayer, facing potentially massive payouts, lawyers up
Given the high cost of the recent verdict and those likely to come in the future, it is unsurprising that Bayer has decided to appeal and has vowed to fight every upcoming lawsuit – including any that may be brought by Vietnam – tooth and nail.
Speaking of the recent verdict, Bayer’s CEO Werner Baumann asserted that “we believe it is wrong” and stood by the safety of glyphosate, stating that the chemical “can be used safely and does not cause cancer.” Regarding the lawsuits filed after the verdict, Baumann stated that Bayer would “vigorously defend this case and all upcoming cases,” adding that the high number of lawsuits filed was “not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs’ cases.” Regarding Agent Orange and any lawsuit that may be filed by Vietnam, Monsanto has never acknowledged its role in the war and has argued that any and all potential liability lies with the U.S. government.
While Bayer seems resolute to fight any and all lawsuits to the bitter end, those seeking damages from Bayer’s Monsanto have announced that they are also willing to do whatever it takes to see justice served. One of those voices, Quách Thành Vinh, Chief of Office and Director of Liaison Lawyers Office for the Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), told Vietnam News on Sunday:
No matter how difficult and prolonged this case might be, we won’t ever give up on it, for the sake of the millions of Vietnamese victims.”
Bayer’s attorneys should have their hands full for the foreseeable future.
Top Photo | Nguyen Thi Tai, left, and Nguyen Thi Thuyet sit together in their wheelchairs outside their family home in the village of Cam Tuyen, Vietnam. The two young women were born with profound physical and mental disabilities that the family, and local officials say, were caused by their parents’ exposure to the chemical dioxin in the defoliant Agent Orange. David Guttenfelder | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.