In October 2013, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson made headlines when he slammed Monsanto ally the Grocery Manufacturers Association over what he called “the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history.”
The GMA worked overtime spending millions to defeat a GMO labeling initiative in the state, and got their way in the end.
Now Ferguson is once again hoping to protect Washington’s residents against Monsanto as he announced a lawsuit on behalf of the state that is the first of its kind, and one that could hold the company accountable for serious environmental damage from its toxic chemicals.
“It’s Time to Hold (Monsanto) Accountable”
According to an early December press release from the state, the state is the first to sue Monsanto over damages from PCBs, toxic chemicals that Monsanto produced and have led to lawsuits in several cities in the western part of the U.S.
“It is time to hold the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs accountable for the significant harm they have caused to our state. Monsanto knew the dangers of PCBs yet hid them from the public to generate profits. I will hold Monsanto accountable for its actions,” said Ferguson.
The state’s decision adds even more gravity to what is becoming an extremely challenging legal situation for Monsanto, which is likely to complete its landmark merger with Bayer in 2017.
“Monsanto is responsible for producing a chemical that is so widespread in our environment that it appears virtually everywhere we look – in our waterways, in people and in fish – at levels that can impact our health,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “It’s time to hold them accountable for doing their fair share as we clean up hundreds of contaminated sites and waterways around the state.”
The press release notes that more than 600 contamination sites have been declared in the state of Washington from the chemicals, which were produced solely by Monsanto from 1935 to 1979.
Ferguson noted that Monsanto knew the PCB compounds were toxic to humans and wildlife, and that they had spread throughout the ecosystem before the ban took effect.
The chemicals, which remain in the environment, constitute a public nuisance “that is harmful to health and obstructs the free use of public resources and state waters,” according to the text of the lawsuit. Monsanto’s own negligence and efforts to conceal the dangers of its product were also cited as reasoning for the lawsuit.
The state’s cleanup costs for the PCBs could reach in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the press release said. The extremely high costs are just one of the major reasons why the aforementioned seven different cities have sued Monsanto as well.
In response, Monsanto had this to say according to Reuters: “This case is highly experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer,” Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge said in a statement.
For more on the Washington lawsuit, as well as a map of sites contaminated by the Monsanto produced chemicals, check out the full press release by clicking here.