Argentinean tobacco farmers strike back against Monsanto and tobacco giants
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the LieAccording to a recently filed lawsuit, Monsanto, along with American tobacco giants like Philip Morris, knowingly poisoned Argentinean tobacco farmers with pesticides which caused “devastating birth defects” in their children.
Monsanto is one of the world’s largest and most connected corporations (for an overview see “The World According to Monsanto”, with even the White House playing on their team and blocking the release of a memo from a lobbyist linked to the “big agra” giant.
Dozens of farmers and their lead counsel Ian Connor Bifferato filed the suit in the New Castle County Court, on behalf of their injured children and themselves, against Philip Morris USA, Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Monsanto, Altria Group, Universal Corporation and their affiliates and subsidiaries in Argentina.
These farmers were growing tobacco on small family-owned farms in the Misiones Province of Argentina, a rural northeastern province where most of Argentina’s tobacco is sold.
They sold their harvested tobacco to U.S. tobacco companies who requested that they use herbicides, pesticides and other Monsanto products.
Despite the distributors’ assurances that the products were safe, in reality the substance in question, Monsanto’s Roundup (a glyphosate-based herbicide) is indeed toxic to humans and animals, even more so than other glyphosate-based herbicides.
The farmers allege that the defendants “wrongfully caused the parental and infant plaintiffs to be exposed to those chemicals and substances which they both knew, or should have known, would cause the infant offspring of the parental plaintiffs to be born with devastating birth defects.”
The complaint, which weighs in at a hefty 55 pages and can be read in its entirety below, says that some of the birth defects related to the toxic substances include, “cerebral palsy, psychomotor retardation, epilepsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, metabolic disorders, congenital heart defects, Down syndrome, missing fingers and blindness,” as outlined by Courthouse News.
According to the complaint, Carolina Leaf and Philip Morris used Tobacos Norte, a tobacco brokerage corporation, to purchase tobacco from the farmers and sell them supplies for production of the crops, including the herbicides and pesticides in question.
Tobacos Norte, which is also based out of Misiones, was actually created in 1984 by an Argentinean subsidiary of Carolina Leaf and Philip Morris.
It was created to produce tobacco for both the North and South American markets, according to the complaint.
According to NOSIS, Tobacos Norte deals primarily in “Support activities for crop production” with estimated invoicing ranging from 20,000,000 to 100,000,000.
The farmers allege that the tobacco companies which had been purchasing their crops asked them to switch from the native tobacco variety to a new type used in Philip Morris cigarettes which required more pesticide use.
They claim that the defendants failed to warn them of the dangers of the pesticides or even give them the proper information and protective gear while pushing for excessive use of pesticides.
Most of the farmers were using Roundup to kill the weeds and clear their tobacco fields and according to the complaint both Monsanto and Philip Morris instructed them to use the glyphosate-based toxin frequently and in quantities beyond what is required for effective weed control.
“Monsanto defendants, the Philip Morris defendants, and the Carolina Leaf defendants promoted the use of Roundup and other herbicides to tobacco farmers in Misiones even though they were on direct and explicit notice that at all relevant times farmers in Misiones, including the instant plaintiffs, lacked the necessary personal protective equipment and other safety knowledge and skills required to minimize harmful exposures to Roundup,” the complaint alleges.
“What is more, at all relevant times Tabacos Norte, the Monsanto defendants, the Philip Morris defendants, and the Carolina Leaf defendants did not recommend protective measures to farmers and their families in Misiones,” the complaint states. “In fact, aforementioned defendants actively recommended and/or required that contracted tobacco farmers, including the instant plaintiffs, purchase excessive quantities of Roundup and other pesticides.”
If this is true, it appears that these corporations were indeed working together and conspiring to make the farmers use far more than they needed without giving them the vital information and protective gear they so desperately needed.
The farmers allege that Monsanto’s pesticides actually contaminated their non-tobacco crops like fruits and vegetables, water sources, farm animals, etc. thus exposing the families even further to the toxic substances.
“The plaintiff tobacco farmers’ lack of training and instruction on the safe disposal of unused Roundup and other pesticides caused further exposure,” the complaint states. “Leftover pesticides were discarded in locations where they leached into the water supply.”
It is worth noting that, quite unfortunately, this type of contamination is not something that goes away in a week or two, meaning that the lands will likely be toxic to some degree for the foreseeable future.
The farmers allege that their exposure directly caused the birth defects of their children and that Monsanto and the tobacco companies, “motivated by a desire for unwarranted economic gain and profit,” chose to ignore all of the health risks associated with the pesticides.
The farmers are looking for both compensatory and punitive damages for negligence along with product liability, breach of warranty, ultra hazardous activity, aiding and abetting, willful and wanton misconduct and violations of Argentine laws.
Not too long ago I would have thought that this case would never have a chance but thanks to Monsanto being found guilty in France for the poisoning of a 47-year-old grain farmer, and the 270,000-person lawsuit filed by organic farmers against Monsanto, I think this case has a chance.
Hopefully these farmers will be victorious and it will be another positive step forward in the effort to stop Monsanto’s global pollution and destruction of our food supply, health and the future of our environment.
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