The Hague, 15 October 2016 — The Monsanto Tribunal, organized by Navdanya and many civil society organizations, began at The Hague this Saturday, as the People’s Assembly hosted several workshops that lasted into the afternoon. The Monsanto Tribunal, an international civil society initiative which aims to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violation and ecocide. On the first day, the Monsanto Tribunal attracted international activists, farmers, doctors, lawyers and scientists who gave testimonies and presented evidence against GMO giant Monsanto. Along with the witnesses, the Tribunal was attended by hundreds of people from all over the world who came together to see the court proceedings. In her opening statement, former French minister and member of the European Parliament Corrine Lepage said, “What happens today will be inscribed in the history of the 21st century.”
Over Saturday and Sunday, eminent judges Eleonora Lamm, Jorge Araham Fernadez Souza, Steven Shrybman, Dior Fall Sow and Francoise Tulkens are hearing testimonies from witnesses and delivering an advisory opinion following the procedures of the international Court of Justice. Testimonies on Saturday included stories of personal tragedy, scientific evidence on the harms of Roundup Ready and IPR violations. Sabine Grataloup, French Roundup pesticide victim, begun the day with an emotional testimony on her son’s birth defects and 51 subsequent operations he had to undergo in his first six months. Some of the other key witnesses included GMO activist from Bangladesh Farida Akthar, Indian farmer leader Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser and farmer Steve Marsh from Australia.
In his testimony, Dr Chaudhary, representing the largest Indian Farmers organization Bhartiya Krishak Samaj, said, “Corporations such as Monsanto are exploiting poor Indian farmers. Through their illegal patents they have imposed a new imperialism on India and collected Rs 5000 crore as illegal royalties. We demand that the global community make Monsanto give compensation to widows and orphaned children of the 300,000 farmers that have committed suicide because of Bt cotton.”
Running alongside the Tribunal was The People’s Assembly where workshops gave activists from all corners of the world a chance to come together to share their stories, ideas and strategies for the future. Workshops were structured around several important issues such as GMOs, farmer’s rights to use ans exchange seeds, corporate accountability and pesticides. Workshops allowed people to focus on campaigns based on the importance of seed saving, patents on life, reclaiming people’s sovereignty, dismantling corporate power and promoting agro-ecology as the only sustainable way to feed the world.
After the reports from Workshops, the final Plenary Sessions focused on how our democracy is being attacked and how new corporate strategies are seeking to gain control over our seeds, food and planet. Key strategies for reclaiming food sovereignty included challenging the current global food industry as Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumer Association, underlined in his intervention: “Millennials from all different places and backgrounds are able to see reality, see the issues, live truth”. In the final remarks, Vandana Shiva reclaimed peoples’ rights to defend their lands, their food, their freedom: “If you don’t know the pain of those you re destroying you don’t have knowledge; manipulating the genetic structure in ignorance is lead to failure, as it was for the BT cotton in India”.
Monsanto has worked to discredit independent scientists such as Dr A Putzai, Dr Gilles-Eric Seralini, Shiv Chopra and many others who have stood up for rigorous science and independent research.
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