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Biotech Medicine The Courts Science

In Small WV Town, Monsanto Faces Class-Action Suit Over Agent Orange Chemical 185

eldavojohn writes "Agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto is now at the receiving end of a lawsuit from representatives of anyone who lived in the small town of Nitro, WV from 1949 on. This suit alleges that Monsanto spread chemical toxins all over town — most notably the carcinogenic dioxins. The plant in question produced herbicide 2,4,5-T, which was used in Vietnam as an ingredient for 'Agent Orange.' [Note: link contains some disturbing images; click cautiously.] From the article: 'Originally the suit called for Monsanto to both monitor people's health and clean up polluted property. The court rejected the property claims last year, leaving just the medical monitoring.' Strange that the suit is only allowed to address the symptom and not the root cause."
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In Small WV Town, Monsanto Faces Class-Action Suit Over Agent Orange Chemical

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  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:20AM (#38902575) Journal

    Dihydrogen monoxide. They should really ban the stuff....

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      No! You can't ban dihydrogen monoxide! I'm addicted to the stuff so badly that withdrawal would certainly be fatal!

  • You know what ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:25AM (#38902625) Homepage Journal

    Those fucks recently applied to whatever regulatory agency that regulates those stuff in the u.s., to permit usage of base elements used in agent orange, for agricultural pesticide applications again.......... it seems superbugs adapting to afflict their genetically modified corps have come too much for them. (was in slashdot news recently too)

    • While normally I might take issue with the rhetorical usage of "base elements use in agent orange" as hyperbole meant to generate an emotional response against chemicals which are, by themselves, not nearly as dangerous as Agent Orange itself (albeit still moderately toxic), in this case I will make an exception, because FUCK MONSANTO.

      Evil filthy scumbag bastards who sue farmers after the cross-pollination from Monsanto corn caused their patented genes to show up in the farmers crops. Yes, they will sue a

    • First, 2,4-D is already commonly used for weed control.

      Second, you're thinking of the corn engineered to resist it that may soon be on the market, not the chemical itself.

      Third, that was Dow, not Monsanto.

      Fourth, 2,4-D was an ingredient in Agent Orange. So was water, but no one complains that Pepsi has Agent Orange ingredients in it.. Neither was the source of the problems it is famous for.

      Fifth, herbicides don't contribute to resistant insects. You're confusing two entirely separate issues.

      Sixth, I love

  • by Are You Kidding ( 1734126 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:30AM (#38902673)
    to function without interference, we would not have such problems. Right? Maybe Ron Paul, or one of his disciples will explain how that works in a case like this.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:44AM (#38902793)

      From what I understand, Ron Paul believes that any laws passed by the congress by the people, for the people, should be enforced. He has never stated that any laws that the public deems necessary should go unenforced in the name of the free market. The kind of rhetoric you blindly parrot is what's damaging our nation, not people like Ron Paul. If you honestly believe that Ron Paul is on the same side of the equation as Monsanto, you've been horribly misled and should probably take a break from CNN and Fox News for a while to detox.

    • Well it's quite simple, if Monsanto releases dangerous chemicals over a town, the residents will boycott the Monsanto chemicals they were never buying, and when news of this boycott gets to the megacorps using these chemicals, they will stop using them and the shareholders will absorb the higher operating costs out of the goodness of their hearts, then Monsanto will go out of business.

    • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:08PM (#38903107) Journal

      Free Market includes Courts to address grievances exactly like this. In a Free Market, a company such as Monsanto would and could be sued in perpetuity for hazards it created either intentionally or unintentionally. If bad enough, the entire company could be liquidated to pay for damages, leaving shareholders nothing. Additionally, in MY version of the free market, the CEO (all of them) and anyone sitting on the Board of Directors would be criminally liable for any criminal activity condoned or sanctioned by them.

      In this case, if found guilty, Monsanto would be forced to pay for cleanup, health monitoring and medical bills of all people damaged by their product or the process used to create that product.

      Free market works if the right application is applied. Don't blame the free market when we have no such thing to blame. There is no "free market", because we have government involved in too many places telling businesses how to do business.

      • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:42PM (#38903581)

        You can't have it both ways.

        Courts are by definition a part of the government. And courts are supposed base their decision on law, not Solomon-esque declarations of wisdom off the cuff.

        You argue that the courts are a required part of the free market.

        You then say that free markets don't currently function properly because there's too much government involved in the process.

        Your argument is absolutely contradictory to itself.

        Aside from this, it also ignores the fact that the folks with the money can always influence decision makers, including the justices or judges of a court. So, no, in your case, the little guys suing the big guy would be even more screwed.

        Finally, arguments like this always ignore the fact that power abhors a vacuum. Government may be in some ways fundamentally evil, but it is the bulwark that our societies build against even more evil (private and unaccountable) entities filling that niche. Taking government away will not stop power from being exercised; all it will do is ensure that the people of the land have no protections against that power.

      • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:48PM (#38903665)

        What good is a court to address grievances when your kids were already born deformed, you've been burned by the agent, and your crops have all failed due to some careless disposal of toxic chemicals? Will you have the money to pay for the court fees before judgment is handed down? Will your kids ever be supported enough by the company to make up for the fact that they were born fully disabled and in permanent pain? If the company is liquidated, who pays for the medicals bills?

        Libertarians never think these things through. To them, a check in the mail is the most that they see necessary to right a wrong. Somehow, I'm convinced that behind every hardcore libertarian is a white male who hasn't had a debilitating accident happen to them, or hasn't gotten shafted hard by someone more powerful than them.

      • I thought the courts were bad for the free market since left wing radical activist judges were legislating from the bench.

      • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @01:36PM (#38904295) Homepage Journal

        Out here in the real world the rich can afford better lawyers than we can; y'know, /free market/.

    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      Or in Bhopal, India []
  • As an American, I don't think we can ever repay our debt to Viet Nam. They're still dealing with the toxins and other leftovers now (especially the children), and they can't sue anyone. The things that are done in the name of our country, our ethnic heritage, our historic religion, our "democracy", our capitalism...sometimes it's hard to live with ourselves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Noughmad ( 1044096 )

      As an American, I don't think we can ever repay our debt to Viet Nam.

      No, you can't. However, you can come close by using the same chemicals in your country, so at least you can share the pain.

  • by Xian97 ( 714198 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:00PM (#38902973)
    in Saint Albans. That entire Charleston area is full of chemical plants - the nickname for the area is the Chemical Valley. Dow, Dupont, FMC, Bayer, Rhone Poluenc, and many others to name some present and past companies that have been there. The biggest was Union Carbide with several locations - the Institute plant was where MIC was produced in the US, the gas involved in the Bhopal tragedy.

    I knew a lot of people that had or developed cancer that lived in the area and I remember seeing a study showing the rate was noticeably higher than the national norm.
    • I grew up in Nitro (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bryan_Casto ( 68979 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:43PM (#38903595)

      The sad part is that this is barely news in WV. Oh, there have been numerous lawsuits over the years challenging each of the companies mentioned above for various abuses, often with commercials and mailers asking you to contact Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe, attorneys at law or some such nonsense. I moved away six years ago and I still get mailers today for class-action suits from my time there.

      I played baseball at the parks across Viscose Road from the industrial park mentioned in the story. My mom worked in Nitro along that same road where there was an EPA Superfund cleanup site for Fike Chemical. They found all kinds of junk there, including hydrogen cyanide and methanethiol. There was also a tremendous tire warehouse fire about five years ago near the industrial park mentioned in the story. The story goes on and on, and has ever since the nitrocellulose plant was built in 1917 for World War I.

      It's unfortunate, but coal and chemicals (and medical services for those dealing with coal and chemicals) are the only kind of work that is generally available in that area. It provided a good living for the time, but left a pretty awful legacy now that those jobs are packing up and leaving.

      • by asherlev ( 2499 ) < minus poet> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:56PM (#38903799)

        Since we're besting each other, I also have a box full of my grandfather's diaries after he found FMC(right down the street from the Monsanto plant in question) dumping barrels of cyanide in the Kanawha River in the 70's. The management threatened to kill him and his daughters.
        You're right though, it's no better now. Despite the fact that the Nitro area(don't even get me started on Manilla Creek) had one of the highest concentrations of marker cancers in the world before the plants closed down, if you say anything negative about the chemical industry in town you're immediately attacked.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      I grew up on the outskirts of Nitro, and one of the things you can't forget is the smell. There is a sort of stale-french fries smell that lingers around the town on windless days. I don't know what it is, but I'm pretty sure it's nothing good.
  • by cfulmer ( 3166 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:10PM (#38903143) Homepage Journal

    So, I can pretty much guarantee that anybody who was involved in Monsanto's decisions 63 years ago is no longer at the company and, in fact, may no longer be alive. Why does it make sense to sue the current company and injure its current stockholders for something that those people did all that time ago?

    The answer? The legal fiction that the company is a 'person' that, among other things, has to be responsible for its actions.

    All the people complaining about companies not being 'persons' in regard to free-speech rights should be careful, because if they're not persons, then they're just collections of people. And in the US, we only hold people liable for things they're personally responsible for. For example, if your parents die owing a lot of money, you don't inherit their debt. If corporations are just collections of persons, then there's no sense in suing Monsanto for this today -- they weren't involved. At most, you could find out who made all the decisions and go back and sue their estates.

    • by Dhalka226 ( 559740 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @01:46PM (#38904417)

      All the people complaining about companies not being 'persons' in regard to free-speech rights should be careful [. . .] at most, you could find out who made all the decisions and go back and sue their estates.


      The idea that if a corporation isn't a person that it's nothing at all is a false dichotomy. A corporation is a legal construct. We can attach whatever we want to that construct (and technically we do -- corporations exist explicitly to serve the public good in most states, as an example). If we want to cease the illusion of it being a person and yet still attach legal liability for its actions, we can do that.

      • by cfulmer ( 3166 )

        So, a corporation is, indeed, a legal construct. Saying that it's a "Legal Person" is simply a shorthand to say that the law treats it as if it were a person in many cases: it can own property, it can sue and be sued, it has to pay taxes, it can be found criminally liable, there are due process rights, etc....

        You're right that we could do what you suggest, but that would involve re-writing a bunch of law that, currently, treats corporations as persons.

        As a side note the idea that "corporations are people,

  • Washington Lawyers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:34PM (#38903463)

    Agent Orange and its emotive supporters want to keep the revenue pump primed. Together with asbestos, this is productive government teat: [] [] [] [] [] []
    etc., etc.

    Regarding free markets. My city used to dump raw sewage in the river, until it was sued in 1925 by a downstream town for polluting the water. After a court case, a treatment plant was built - no EPA or federal government required, common law is sufficient.

    • If your city was sued, it means that there was a law that the courts ruled on a law.

      Which means that a government made a law that said, no, dumping sewage into the river is a no-no because there was a law that said it was a no-no.

      Unless you are proponing that the courts legislate from the bench with declarations of Solomon-esque wisdom. In which case, the courts become the government, and you've gone full circle.

      Not to mention that in your fantasy system that you can ever stop someone from doing something

      • If your city was sued, it means that there was a law that the courts ruled on a law.

        No, there is Common Law. See [], in particular "The common law evolves to meet changing social needs and improved understanding".

        If you intend to stop any harm before it happens, then you may as well go and live in a cave (that new-fangled bow and arrow will surely put someone's eye out).

        • So - you can't stop someone from dumping poison in the town well, causing everyone's children to be stillborn.

          But hey - you can sue them for damages, right?

          • Absolutely, if you knew it was poison. But if the elected town chief and witchdoctor told you the mushrooms were ok, you would have some wriggle room. Maybe it would be better not to have a well?

            Today comes the news that "sugar is a toxic, addictive substance" []

            I guess the sugar companies will be hounded, just like the tobacco companies and Monsanto, while the actual producers (farmers) continue to be subsidized.

            Government oversight

    • Interesting. Did the lawsuit somehow pay money to the people affected by the sewage dump? How much? What about the people farther downstream than the town that sued?

      Also, note that it took a town to sue, not individuals. Are you saying that only those wealthy enough to afford a lawsuit should be able to sue? What if the town administration would just have been paid a lump sum by the town upstream, and the town administration downstream just said "Keep on dumping!"?

      Lots of questions, few answers.

      • As usual with these things, it is more complicated than a sound bite. In 1892 the downstream town had dammed the river to power the numerous mills that were springing up. At the same time, the growing upstream city, for the first time, constructed a sewage collection system which discharged into the river. In itself considered a great environmental improvement. Both actions made the pollution situation a lot worse.

        The suit was brought collectively by the mills and the local inhabitants (I think). Altho

  • Monsanto spun off it's chemical business in 1997 as Solutia, in part to distance itself from the liability of Agent Orange and PCBs. In 2000, Monsanto merged with Pharmacia (who had bought Solutia earlier), and the company was gutted and restructured, and left as a seed company with the glyphosate division. Shortly thereafter, Monsanto was spun off as a separate company again (Pharmacia mostly wanted GD Searle). The chemical business (at that point, part of Pharmacia), Solutia, went bankrupt in 2003.


  • I like the town's name, "Nitro". Even sounds toxic. Or a place where hot-rodders live.

    • Or named for the product of the chemical plants it sprung up around (rather than the plants moving into town, the first plants came first, and people moved around them to shorten their commutes).

  • So Monsanto was not responsible for the stuff getting all over town? Nitro,WV is probably a EPA SuperFund site now and Monsanto should be picking up the tab for the clean-up. But since Monsanto's legal department probably makes more in a year than the combined lifetime earnings of the residents of Nitro, I doubt there's a damned thing that can be done to get the company to do the right thing. If you live in WV it looks like you have the choice to get screwed over by a chemical company or a coal mining compa

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. -- John Kenneth Galbraith