The Vietnam War was the Monsanto Company’s first herbicidal operation. Monsanto and Dow Chemical were the two companies that manufactured Agent Orange, the deadly dioxin based herbicide. The March Against Monsanto (MAM) is scheduled to host global protests at more than 100 sites on May 24. MAM is very vocal about moving beyond a genetically modified organism (GMO ) labeling centered discourse when it comes to exposing Monsanto’s negative impact on the world.
The protest network sponsors projects like Agent Orange Awareness (AOA). Founder of the AOA Kelly L. Derricks comments, “If we fail to realize that March Against Monsanto is not about GMOs alone, then we have already lost the battle.”
Organizers want to inform the public that Monsanto’s devastation stretches across the board. The media often simplifies protesters’ demands against Monsanto’s domination of food resources by not covering Monsanto’s history as a major manufacturer of Agent Orange.
Even though Monsanto was not the only Agent Orange producer, MAM confirms that Monsanto manufactured the chemical at 1,000 times its original potency making them the most deadly contributor to the herbicidal weapons used in the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was used in Operation Ranch Hand which began Monsanto’s role in destroying the global environment and harming the health of millions.
The Organic Consumers Association gives the history of how the toxic chemical was used in the Vietnam War. Approximately 72 million liters of herbicides, a majority Agent Orange, were sprayed by the United States military from 1962 to 1970. More than a million Vietnamese citizens and over 100,000 allied troops came into contact with the toxin. Since then, Monsanto has falsified several studies about the toxic effects of Agent Orange.
Studies that show Agent Orange’s toxic effects exist, but this research has done little to implicate Monsanto’s role in poisoning humans. Studies in the 1970s found that Agent Orange exposure caused, “a very significant, multi-system illness affecting all parts of the nervous system, and causing fatigue and muscle aches.” Groups like AOA and MAM are working to draw attention to the countless studies and life experiences that prove the damaging effects of Agent Orange.
Monsanto was neither the first nor the only company to create Agent Orange used in the herbicidal operation in the Vietnam War. Dow Chemical also made large quantities of dioxin, the main ingredient in Agent Orange. Agent Orange victims have spoken out about the dangers of allowing Monsanto and Dow Chemical to continue patenting agricultural products.
Dow AgroSciences will follow Monsanto and release their own version of herbicide resistant GMO corn and soybean seeds in 2015. The Dow herbicide called, Enlist Duo, contains traces of Agent Orange’s dioxin in a mixture of 2,4-D and glyphosate. Many demand that the EPA should prevent Enlist products from being sold in the market because of decades of scientific research that link dioxin toxicity to severe health issues.
Concerns about Monsanto’s role in facilitating the deregulation of the agricultural industry stem from Monsanto’s influence in the federal government. The Food and Drug Administration as well as the Environmental Protection Agency have employed former Monsanto attorneys in their organizations.
On May 24, the world will witness thousands of people protesting the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture. Monsanto’s Agent Orange operation in the Vietnam War was the first insight into the biotech corporation’s future in herbicidal warfare. The protests will expose this connection. Media coverage of last year’s protests was very slim. However, this year is promising to gain greater attention as long as more people become concerned about where their food comes from.
(Dom's Multiple Myeloma was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam)