A legal precedent has paved the way for Vietnam to demand Monsanto pay compensation to the many victims of Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. While previous claims said herbicides produced by Monsanto – and other companies – and used during the war were harmless, the recent guilty verdict in Monsanto vs. Dewayne Johnson refutes those claims, a spokesman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry said.
The company, now part of Bayer AG after an acquisition went through, was ordered to pay $289 million in restitution to Johnson, a former pest control manager for a California country school system, after a jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court in California ruled that Monsanto failed to warn users of it’s product about the cancer risks. Vietnam is now using this as grounds for Agent Orange victims.
“The verdict serves as a legal precedent which refutes previous claims that the herbicides made by Monsanto and other chemical corporations in the US and provided for the US army in the war are harmless,” Nguyen Phuong Tra, a spokesman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry, said. “Vietnam has suffered tremendous consequences from the war, especially with regard to the lasting and devastating effects of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange.”
The U.S. military used Agent Orange as a deprivation of food and concealment of Viet Cong guerilla fighters over a 10 year span from 1961 to 1971. More than 12 million gallons of the chemical substance was sprayed across 30,000 miles of Southern Vietnam’s jungle “destroying the natural environment and leaving three million Vietnamese grappling with health issues,” according to VIETNAMNET Bridge. The toxic defoliant, which has high levels of dioxin that millions were exposed to, has been linked to many health conditions including cancers and other deadly diseases along with birth defects and deformities that are caused from gene mutations passed down to future generations.
Monsanto continues to argue that Agent Orange “was only produced for, and used by, the government,” and the company was not the only producer who manufactured the toxin for the wartime government.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2017 that glyphosate was not likely a carcinogen to humans after decades-long studies, the European EPA labeled it as carcinogen in 1985, but reversed it in 1991. The World Health Organization classified glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015.