News
October 12, 2016
AN OPEN LETTER ABOUT THE MONSANTO TRIBUNAL

Image of a farmer on a farm. Monsanto's response to the Monsanto Tribunal.

For The Record: The mock tribunal distracts from real dialogue on the world’s food and agriculture needs and the full realization of human rights.

To people interested in food, the environment and biodiversity, human rights, and Monsanto,

In growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. We work daily to provide farmers with a broad range of solutions so they can have better harvests while making land, water and other natural resources go further, and make a more balanced plate of food more accessible for everyone.

To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and farming. These conversations are badly needed to help find sustainable solutions to those challenges.

Recently, there has been some discussion fuelled by a select group of campaign groups planning to stage a “Monsanto Tribunal” at a local university in the city of The Hague, Netherlands, in mid-October 2016. The organisers say this event – which alleges offenses against nature and humanity – is designed to engage and educate society. But this is not a real dialogue. It is a staged event, a mock trial where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organisers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined.

As this is a stunt staged and supported by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) – an umbrella organisation of organic farming organisations, and their associates such as Navdanya and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture – we will not participate.

We will continue to engage with and address concerns and questions of those who are genuinely interested in who we are and what we do.  For the record, here is where we stand on transparency, the human rights to food, health and a safe environment, and sustainable food production.

We have pledged to listen more, to consider our actions and their impact broadly, and to lead responsibly. We realise consumers, farmers, and the food and agricultural industry each have a stake in how crops are grown and food is produced. We strive to be transparent about what we do, the science that supports our research and product innovation, and the peer-reviewed, proven safety records of our products.

We are committed to the protection and advancement of human rights. Our company’s human rights policy, which has been in place for more than a decade, is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ framework of the U.N. Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights is the basis for our on-going efforts to advance human rights.

We believe in the coexistence of all types of farming practices, and in farmers’ individual freedom to choose the production method that makes most sense for their goals – be that growing crops using conventional methods, or with genetically-modified seeds and other modern techniques, or by following organic practices.

We help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Our products and services help farmers to use data science to grow food in a more sustainable and carbon-neutral way.  We have made commitments and taken actions to enhance honey bee health; create a healthier ecosystem for monarch butterflies; and help rural communities preserve their forest-farm ecosystem, prevent illegal deforestation and protect local species.

We work diligently to ensure our technologies can benefit farmers of all sizes – small farmers and large farmers. In fact, a majority of our customers in Asia and Africa are smallholder farmers.

Here’s something else those campaign groups may not want you to know. Monsanto offers a broad range of seeds and services that can benefit organic farmers as much as they do conventional farmers. Many of our customers farm both conventional and organic crops. We also market vegetable seeds and microbial products that are approved and used by farmers in organic agriculture. We invest in R&D to develop products and services that are every bit as useful for both conventional and organic farmers.

Finally, 60 percent of the seeds sown on earth are from non-commercial seeds – seeds saved and replanted by farmers.  These traditional seed practices and commercial seed distribution systems have coexisted and operated successfully across the globe, enabling farmers’ individual choices.

We truly believe that an event staged with a pre-determined outcome is not conducive to the open and deep dialogue that human rights and agriculture deserve to find real solutions to the challenges of hunger, food security, and the role of farmers to nourish our growing world sustainably. Sadly, some members of the public may read or hear about this event and not realise it has absolutely no legitimate connection to either the real International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Listening and engaging in constructive dialogue are important to us. We do not shy away from listening to concerns and working to really understand how we can better communicate who we are and what we do, whether it is in personal or community dialogues, broad public discussions, or multi-stakeholder forums around the world.  We partner with many communities, and engage in numerous conversations online globally. We have had more than 750 million interactions with people globally in the past 20 months on our websites and social media channels including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms across several languages – English, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Bahasa Indonesia.

We are humbled by the recognitions we have received for our efforts in various communities around the world, yet know we can always do more. We understand that people have different points of view on these topics, and it’s important that they are able to express and share them. For our part, we remain committed to our human rights policy and practices, transparency, dialogue and partnerships, and welcome anyone who wants to learn more about Monsanto to ask us a question at discover.monsanto.com.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the Monsanto Human Rights Steering Committee

Brian Lowry

Chair, Global Human Rights Steering Committee 

Co-Chair – Office of Sustainability Monsanto Company

 

 

Martha Burmaster

Director, Human Rights, Monsanto Company

 

 

 

Rosalina Syahriar

Director, Human Resources for Global Vegetables Supply Chain, Monsanto Company

 

 

 

Jorge Chepote

Director, Global Vegetable Supply Chain Strategy & Operations, Monsanto Company

 

 

 

Below are the different language versions of the Open letter from Monsanto’s Human Rights Committee:

 

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