Monsanto fails to curtail free speech
(Oct. 6, 2018) Monsanto might have its minions working to consolidate its dream of an agricultural business monopoly — in the EPA, the U.S. Senate, the Supreme Court of the United States, to name just a few places — but despite the heavy stacking of the deck in its favor, the biotech bully from Missouri can still be beaten. Monsanto can be beaten not only in the court of U.S. public opinion, but also in the court of law. In September 2018, activists (sentient humans, by any other name) working to stop the Monsanto juggernaut and uncover its crimes were backed in court by a significant judicial ruling.
Monsanto had sued the citizens’ group Avaaz to force it to hand over the names of millions of people who had acted against Monsanto by signing petitions or sending money to fight it. These activists were trying to stop Monsanto from destroying our land and food with glyphosate and other patented poisons. Monsanto lost that bid to collect the activists’ personal information, thanks to a judge who recognized the dangers of allowing deep-pocketed corporations to harass and bully human beings in the U.S. court system.
Judge Hagler delivers Justice
On September 6, 2018, a Manhattan judge threw out a subpoena filed by Monsanto against Avaaz. The judge then lectured Monsanto on the importance of free speech and democracy.
The 168-page subpoena – authored by Monsanto through a New York court — would have forced Avaaz to hand over a decade’s worth of internal campaign communications. That list would have included the personal information of millions who signed petitions protesting Monsanto’s genetically modified crops and the company’s carcinogenic Roundup. (Wouldn’t Monsanto have loved to “roundup” those activists, if only to frighten them into submission, or name them on its next lawsuit in the kind of legal harassment which has helped the company become so deservedly infamous.)
Avaaz campaign director Iain Keith emailed members after the judge denied Monsanto’s gestapo-like quest to roundup the names and personal information of activists: “This subpoena was terrifying and would have had Avaaz spend months and hundreds of thousands of dollars digging up and handing over to Monsanto everything anyone on our team ever said or wrote about them for YEARS. Including even the email addresses and identities of our members who had sent messages to officials about Monsanto!”
Mr. Keith said in a Facebook video:
“Monsanto was so angry about the millions of activists who fought to convince the European Union and other governments to step up and protect citizens from glyphosate that it took us to court and wanted us to hand over all of our strategies and partnerships.”
Sentient beings can only thank God the case didn’t go Monsanto’s way, and they can thank the fair judge who ruled against the biotech bully from Missouri.
Judge Shlomo S. Hagler of the Manhattan Supreme Court Justice “absolutely destroyed” Monsanto’s subpoena, said Mr. Avaaz. Judge Hagler said, “the subpoena would have a ‘tremendous chilling effect’” and that “no member would want to have their privacy and their activity known.”
Judge Rules for Free Speech over Monsanto
We beat #Monsanto in court! The judge even said that Monsanto was trying to stop the lobbying efforts of our members. In his words, “This is America…you can speak your mind.”
— Avaaz (@Avaaz) September 6, 2018
Other Recent Wins over Monsanto:
• The New York state attorney general charged Monsanto with fraud in 1996 and then beat the bully in court. New York sued Monsanto over its Roundup marketing claims. The state specifically objected to Monsanto’s wild claim that Roundup was as safe as table salt. Monsanto also claimed Roundup had more than a 1,000 fold safety margin over food (whatever that even meant). Another Monsanto ad claimed, “Roundup can be used where kids and pets will play.” Monsanto never admitted any wrongdoing (poisoning the world for profit means never having to say you’re sorry), but the company nonetheless agreed to stop making such unproven claims about its glyphosate products in New York state. (Meanwhile the rest of the country is still treated to Monsanto’s misinformation over glyphosate safety.)
• In August of this year, Monsanto was ordered to pay a dying California man $289 million for failing to warn him that using Roundup could give him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
• In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that glyphosate – the only listed active ingredient in Roundup – was a probable human carcinogen.
World Celebrate Victory over Monsanto
The ruling for Avaaz sparked celebrations around the world. Users took to social media to voice their support for Avaaz, as well as for the judge who delivered justice.
BREAKING: Judge Hagler quash subpoena from Monsanto against Avaaz. Democracy won. Freedom of speech rules the day! #FirstAmendment
— Oscar Soria (@OscarHSoria) September 6, 2018
I love when common sense, #truth, #justice, #wisdom, #freedom, and #integrity stand tall!
Thank you @Avaaz for your courage to speak for freedom in court in response to #Monsanto subpoena. Huge gratitude to the judge who is beyond bullying, who sees simple Truth! https://t.co/FdvXFWacSZ
— Jeanine DuBois (@jrd1776) September 7, 2018
NY Supreme Court just quashed Monsanto’s subpoena against @Avaaz. I hear the judge delivered a spanking to Monsanto’s lawyers. This wouldn’t have been possible without the thousands of Avaazers who donated towards the legal defence — very grateful to them! pic.twitter.com/8HVK0PKSQ6
— Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim (@fortuashla) September 6, 2018
Avaaz Deputy Director, Emma Ruby-Sachs, said in a press release:
“It’s unbelievable, but we beat back Monsanto and won in court! Not only are we safe from this legal attack, but the judge even told Monsanto that what they were doing was anti-democratic and an attempt to ‘chill’ the voices of our members, and the voices of citizens engaged in lobbying everywhere. Monsanto can appeal, but they’d be crazy to try to take on this amazing community of almost 50 million people again.”
Monsanto acted with Malice, Oppression, Fraud
In the $289 million verdict against Monsanto last molnth, a jury of 12 determined that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup caused cancer in 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who became terminally ill with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after he sprayed Roundup on schoolgrounds. The jury agreed with Mr. Johnson’s lawyers, who charged that Monsanto acted with “malice, oppression or fraud.”
Monsanto said it will appeal the verdict in Mr. Johnson’s case, and it will likely also appeal Judge Hagler’s ruling in the Avaaz case. The ruling nevertheless sparked a wave of malaise among Bayer investors, pushing the stock price to its lowest in five years, and the ruling gives the rest of us hope that the Monsanto juggernaut can be stopped before it poisons the entire world even more than it already has.