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June 14, 2012
Brazilian farmers win $2 billion judgment against Monsanto
Corporation faces criminal charges for concealing own study in which cows died after eating its genetically modified corn.
Biotech giant Syngenta has been criminally charged with denying knowledge that its genetically modified (GM) Bt corn kills livestock during a civil court case that ended in 2007 .
Syngenta’s Bt 176 corn variety expresses an insecticidal Bt toxin (Cry1Ab) derived from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and a gene conferring resistance to glufosinate herbicides. EU cultivation of Bt 176 was discontinued in 2007. Similar varieties however, including Bt 11 sweet corn are currently cultivated for human and animal consumption in the EU.
The charges follow a long struggle for justice by a German farmer whose dairy cattle suffered mysterious illnesses and deaths after eating Bt 176. They were grown on his farm as part of authorised field tests during 1997 to 2002. By 2000, his cows were fed exclusively on Bt 176, and soon illnesses started to emerge. He was paid 40 000 euros by Syngenta as partial compensation for 5 dead cows, decreased milk yields, and vet costs (see  Cows ate GM Maize and Died, SiS 21). During a civil lawsuit brought against the company by the farmer however, Syngenta refused to admit that its GM corn was the cause, claiming no knowledge of harm. The case was dismissed and Gloeckner remained thousands of euros in debt.
Gloeckner continued to lose cows and many more had to be put down due to serious illnesses, compelling him to stop using GM feed from 2002. He approached the Robert Koch Institute and Syngenta to conduct a full investigation. However, only one cow was ever analysed and the data are still unavailable to the public. Unsurprisingly, no causal relationship between the GM feed and deaths was determined; and there is still no explanation for the deaths.
But in 2009, the farmer learned of a feeding study allegedly commissioned by Syngenta in 1996 that resulted in four cows dying in two days. The trial was abruptly terminated. Now Gloeckner, along with a German group called Bündnis Aktion Gen-Klage and another farmer turned activist Urs Hans, have brought Syngenta to the criminal court to face charges of withholding knowledge of the US trial, which makes the company liable for the destruction of the farmer’s 65 cows. Syngenta is also charged with the deaths of cattle in the US trial and on Gloeckner’s farm, which should have been registered as “unexpected occurrences”. Most seriously, the German head of Syngenta Hans-Theo Jahmann, is charged for withholding knowledge of the US study from the judge and from Gloecker in the original civil court case.
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