Bayer adds Monsanto’s toxic legacy to its own
The Bayer logo is pictured at the main chemical plant of German Bayer AG, in Leverkusen, Germany. The company faces about 18,400 lawsuits against subsidiary Monsanto over its glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup in the United States. Bayer acquired Monsanto for $63 billion last year. | Martin Meissner / AP

Incendiary exposés of Monsanto products—scientifically proven in court to cause cancers in workers and homeowners who have used them—have caused stocks to plunge and new owner, German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, to no longer want to use the brand name.

Three multi-billion dollar lawsuits, with 18,000 more pending, are quite a corporate burden for Bayer to acquire, along with the $62.5 billion price tag to merge the two chemical giants. However, both these giants have major war crimes, from World War II to Vietnam, hidden in their pasts.

Sacrificing Vietnam for Monsanto profits

Agrochemical Monsanto’s role in the wars on South East Asia of 50 years ago is why Veterans For Peace recently held an “Expose Monsanto Vigil” in downtown San Francisco on August 10th, International Agent Orange Day.

That war saw one of the largest chemical poisonings of entire countries in the history of the world—the use of the defoliant Agent Orange on the jungles and food crops of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The damage to humans and the ecosystem continues today.

Veterans for Peace vigil in San Francisco’s Union Square, Aug. 10, 2019. | Courtesy of Nadya Williams

The herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed for 10 years to the tune of 20 million gallons. It contained Dioxin, the most toxic substance known to science. But dioxin was not a necessary ingredient in Agent Orange, which was manufactured by Monsanto, Dow, and others.

A longer processing time would have burned out the dioxin, however that would have cost a little of the profits, so the contaminant was left in and Dioxin’s gene-warping destruction entered human and animal DNA.

Tens of thousands of American veterans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese have died from Agent Orange poisoning in the decades since. Severe birth defects, cancers, and many other illnesses are now passing to a fourth generation since the war’s end, with an estimated four million Vietnamese affected today, including newborn babies.

Bayer’s bargain for human lives

Yet another damning piece of history, this one stretching back to World War II, exposes yet another mass chemical poisoning. It concerns the German-owned Bayer (Monsanto’s new merger partner) and its collaboration with Nazi death camps, as documented and verified in the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals.

During the war, Bayer wrote the commander of Auschwitz concentration camp to inquire about “purchasing” 150 women for experiments with sleep-inducing drugs. After bargaining on the price, the letter from Bayer said, [the following is taken word for word from documented testimony at the Nuremberg Tribunal]:

“We received your reply. Select 150 women in the best possible state of health, and as soon as you inform us that you are ready, we will fetch them….” And later: “Despite their emaciated condition they were acceptable… We will keep you informed on the progress of the experiments.” And again later: “The experiments were concluded. All persons died. We will soon get in touch with you regarding a new shipment” (Central Commission of Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, Nuremberg Documents, cited by Victor Grossman in A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, p. 304).

Taking them to court

The legal troubles for Monsanto and Bayer returned to the fore last year. In the summer of 2018, the first of three lawsuits against Monsanto was mounted by a sickened school groundskeeper in California who routinely used Roundup weed killer on his job. Roundup contains, not dioxin, but glyphosate. The “voir dire” phase (pre-screening of potential jurors in the jury pool) of that first case is extremely instructive.

“Juror #4,” Robert Howard of San Francisco, who served during the entire six-week trial of a year ago, tells of a prospective juror being asked by a bank of Monsanto lawyers, “What, if anything, have you heard previously about Monsanto?” Answer: “Didn’t Monsanto make Agent Orange in the Vietnam War?” “Strike, your honor!” cried the three Monsanto lawyers in unison as they literally leaped out of their seats. That possible juror was promptly struck from the jury list.

However, despite all their efforts, the 12 chosen members of the jury, including Howard, found Monsanto guilty. Coincidentally, the groundskeeper received the verdict awarding him millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages on August 10, 2018—the annual International Agent Orange Day.

Plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, the school groundskeeper, is a 46-year-old African-American married father of three with terminal cancer. The weed killer glyphosate, combined with other ingredients, was proven in court to be a carcinogen. There are no warning labels on Roundup, however.

As of this writing, Johnson is still alive despite suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. His courage to challenge a corporate giant is groundbreaking. Agrochemical Monsanto is appealing, of course, and Bayer has continued to assert that glyphosate is safe, exactly like Agent Orange was “safe” to use in Southeast Asia on our military and their civilians.

In this July 9, 2018, photo, Plaintiff Dewayne Johnson, right, reacts while attorney Brent Wisner, not seen, speaks about his condition during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco. | Josh Edelson / Pool Photo via AP

But that is not all. According to The Guardian, Monsanto created an “intelligence fusion center.” This term is used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.  As was presented in court, attorneys for the plaintiffs called attention to Monsanto’s alleged efforts to suppress science that suggested the carcinogenic properties of glyphosate by ghostwriting articles and supplying environmental regulators with “bad science.”

In addition, a “multi-pronged” strategy to exert pressure on journalists, scientists, and non-profit citizen protection groups was carried out. Lengthy reports were even completed concerning singer Neil Young due to his 2015 album titled The Monsanto Years. The multinational agribusiness conglomerate, which is known for being one of the first to embrace genetic food modification (GMOs), actually considered taking legal action against Young.

However, both of the corporate giants’ hidden histories in wars of the last century should give the world pause as to their roles and products today.


Nadya Williams
Nadya Williams

Nadya Williams is an active Associate Member of Veterans For Peace since 2003; on the board of the Viet Nam Chapter 160 of VFP and Director of Communication for the San Francisco Chapter 69; a freelance journalist.