Just the name itself inspires terrifying images of organically mutated super vegetables with a potential for causing sickness and even death. It has been a hotbed of discussion and debates for at least the past decade, despite continued federal government support from various agencies. It seemed as though the giant was unstoppable, at least on a national level, until recently. Unfortunately, it isn’t the company’s genetically modified farming that is drawing judicial backlash, although the foundation could be laid for larger future accountability.
This month the city of Portland, Oregon has filed a federal lawsuit against Monsanto over waterways being contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are tasteless, odorless, lab-created chemicals which contain chlorine, carbon and hydrogen atoms. While the manufacture of PCBs has been banned since 1979, it was produced in mass quantity for at least 50 years prior. (RELATED: Read more news about the environmental impacts of toxic chemicals at Environ.news)
PCBs have a broad range of consistencies, from light colored liquids to dark waxy solids. The initial benefits of PCBs include their electrical insulating properties, chemical stability and being non-flammable. Due to these capabilities, PCBs were used in a broad spectrum of industrial and commercial instances prior to 1979, such as: pigments and dyes, plasticizers in paint and rubber products, and electrical and heat transfer equipment.
Because these chemicals do not easily break down easily, they can remain for years and even decades circulating through the environment. Because of this, PCB materials can still be found present in many products and materials that were manufactured prior to the 1979 ban. Many common items, often found in homes or businesses, could possibly contain PCBs. Some of these items include caulking, cable insulation, floor finish, transformers and capacitors, plastics and even fluorescent light ballasts. This list represents just a portion of possible places that PCB contamination can still be found in modern daily life.
The Portland lawsuit alleges that Monsanto produced more than 1 billion pounds of PCBs and then knowingly discharged them into Portland area waterways and landfills. City attorney Tracy Reeve made the following statement regarding the issue: “Portland’s elected officials are committed to holding Monsanto accountable for its apparent decision to favor profits over ecological and human health…Monsanto profited from selling PCBs for decades and needs to take responsibility for cleaning up after the mess it created.”
The agricultural giant fired back, continuing their stance that they had stopped producing PCBs in any capacity following the 1979 ban. This is in stark contrast to released documents stating that Monsanto actually had knowledge that PCBs were contaminating fish, oysters and birds a decade prior in 1969 and that global contamination would endanger human health. The city of Portland is taking this one step further, contending that Monsanto had full knowledge as far back in time as 1937 that the products they were manufacturing would contribute to the degradation of a human being’s health.
Monsanto also released a statement that PCBs had not been produced in the United States for four decades and that Portland’s lawsuit against them was experimental with previously unheard of grounds. The response from Portland’s Port Deputy Director, Curtis Robinhold, is a reminder that the company did in fact generate incredible amounts of revenue and profit from products manufactured with PCBs and should therefore be held accountable for the cleanup of their contaminants.
Should Portland win this lawsuit, it will be an uphill battle as Monsanto has proven time and again that their influence in the government is strong and unwavering. It could also be the first domino to fall against the corporate giants as six other West Coast cities have also taken to holding Monsanto accountable through federal lawsuits. Should Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose and Oakland win their lawsuits, it would be the first steps toward victory over a company that has consistently bought its way out of regulations. (See also MonsantoMafia.com)