Court Orders Dow and Monsanto To Pay Fines
(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2006) Last week a South Korean court ruled that the American pesticide manufacturers Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. must compensate 6,800 Koreans poisoned by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War the herbicide Agent Orange ( 50-50 mixture of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T) was widely used by American troops to destroy jungle cover; out of the 19-million gallons of defoliants sprayed over southern Vietnam from 1962 to 1971, approximately 55 percent was Agent Orange. Since then, many veterans from South Korea, Vietnam, and the United States, have blamed exposure to the toxic pesticide for a variety of illnesses that range from reproductive problems to cancer and nervous disorders.
The South Korean court that heard the case acknowledged that there is a “causal relationship” between the toxic herbicide and eleven diseases, citing a report from the National Academy of Sciences. While the court acknowledged a variety of different diseases it did not acknowledge peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy – a nervous system disease that can cause temporary numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations, and in severe cases muscle wasting and paralysis – is the most widely spread disease among Agent Orange victims.
According to an article in The St. Petersburg Times, in 1999 approximately 20,000 South Koreans filed two separate lawsuits against Dow and Monsanto, seeking over 5-billion dollars in reparations. The lawsuits were lost in 2002 and promptly appealed. Last week’s ruling was a combined ruling for the two cases that awarded damages ranging from $6,200 to $47,500 to approximately 6,800 veterans and relatives of deceased victims.
While many are regarding this lawsuit as a victory, there is also disappointment as the court rejected a similar case against the companies involving children of Agent Orange victims who suffer from peripheral neuropathy. They claim they got the disease because their fathers were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Some people are confused by the court’s refusal to acknowledge the connection between Agent Orange and peripheral neuropathy. The connection between the disease and the herbicide has been determined and supported by the National Academy of Sciences.