It isn’t just the Trump administration that is thoroughly corrupt. In fact, it’s hard not to see Trump’s collection of mob wanna-be’s and hangers-on as representative of far too many American mega-corporations.
Take Monsanto. (As Henny Youngman might have said, please…)
A while back, the Guardian published an expose–one of many–that confirmed what farmers and rural folks have known for years, namely, that the company is rapacious, dishonest and immoral.
The US agriculture giant Monsanto and the German chemical giant BASF were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms, internal documents seen by the Guardian show.
Risks were downplayed even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage, according to documents unearthed during a recent successful $265m lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer.
The documents, some of which date back more than a decade, also reveal how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators.
And in some of the internal emails, employees appear to joke about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail”.
Think about that last paragraph for a while.
The Guardian investigation focused on a product intended to replace Roundup–the company’s best-selling herbicide that has been connected to various cancers. Not that concern about user’s health entered into the equation. It seems that millions of acres of US farmland have become overrun with weeds that have become resistant to Roundup, the company’s name for glyphosate.
Farmers using Roundup would spray it on crops that Monsanto had genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with glyphosate. That was popular with farmers everywhere, not just in the U.S., but it led to the emergence of weeds that were also resistant to Roundup. The new system promoted by Monsanto and BASF uses a herbicide called dicamba; it “similarly provides farmers with genetically engineered dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton that can be sprayed directly with dicamba.” The weeds sprayed with the new product die–at least, so far– but the crops don’t.
There is, it appears, a down-side to the new product (other than the consequences of such herbicide use generally).
Dicamba has been in use since the 1960s but traditionally was used sparingly, and not on growing crops, because it has a track record of volatilizing – moving far from where it is sprayed – particularly in warm growing months. As it moves it can damage or kill the plants it drifts across.
The companies said they would make new dicamba formulations that would stay where they were sprayed and would not volatilize as older versions of dicamba were believed to do. With good training, special nozzles, buffer zones and other “stewardship” practices, the companies assured regulators and farmers that the new system would bring “really good farmer-friendly formulations to the marketplace”.
You can guess the rest. Only farmers buying Monsanto’s own dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean seeds would be protected from drift damage. And they knew it. According to a report prepared for Monsanto in 2009, such “off-target movement” was expected, along with “crop loss”, “lawsuits” and “negative press around pesticides.” Monsanto’s own projections estimated that damage claims from farmers would total more than 10,000 cases. Evidently, those anticipated lawsuits were just a cost of doing business–business that generated enough profit to make even significant losses quite manageable.
And of course, one way Monsanto generated profit and business was through the drift–which encouraged the “drifted on” farmers to buy Monsanto’s resistant seeds.
It’s Roundup all over again.
Three juries so far have found that Roundup is carcinogenic and that Monsanto hid the risks. And just as Monsanto has done in the Roundup cases, it has tried to keep most of the discovery from the dicamba litigation designated confidential. According to the Guardian, some 180 of those documents have been unsealed.
“The documents are the worst that I’ve ever seen for any case that I’ve worked on,” said lawyer Angie Splittgerber, a former tobacco industry defense attorney who works with Randles in the firm Randles & Splittgerber. “So many of them put things in writing that were just horrifying.”
The linked article has facts and figures and is worth reading in its entirety–not just because Monsanto’s behavior has been utterly despicable for many years, but because lax government oversight has allowed a number of companies to behave with similar impunity. Too many of America’s “movers and shakers” consider this kind of behavior “doing business.”
Capitalism requires effective regulation in order to work properly. This is what happens when the regulated capture and control the regulators.
This is the cesspool from which Trump and his enablers emerged. This is their “normal.”