We want healthy economic development in Pima County. But if we are to entice companies here with tax or other benefits we want business and industry that will operate in an above-board manner and will not contaminate our soil, water or air.
Monsanto has a decades-long litany of producing, promoting and distributing some of the deadliest toxins ever created – and shirking responsibility for the tragic consequences of their use. It has been fined for environmental violations and accounting irregularities. The European Union and other countries have banned Monsanto products that are legal in Pima County.
The Pima County administration has been negotiating an agreement with Monsanto in which the county would create a state-authorized “free-trade zone” for Monsanto operations here that would employ only 40 to 60 people. Monsanto would avoid paying full Pima County property taxes.
Less generous county incentives for Caterpillar, Accelerate Diagnostics and World View Enterprises, each of which will have many more local employees than Monsanto, are worthy of support. Other legitimate economic development projects could earn incentives. We should not support a tax break for Monsanto.
This company and its predecessors have had a hand in, and often been a creator of, many of the world’s worst toxic nightmares: PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), early nuclear weaponry, DDT, dioxin, Agent Orange, RoundUp (glyphosate), Lasso (alachlor), and Bovine Growth Hormone. It pioneered and is the world’s leading producer of GMOs, genetically modified organisms.
PCBs were widely used from the 1930s to the 1960s, when scientists began to document their extreme toxicity and cancer-causing properties. Congress banned them in 1979, but they remain ubiquitous in our environment.
DDT, an insecticide that burst into widespread use after World War II, proved to be extremely toxic to birds and a potent human cancer-causing agent. It was banned in 1972.
Agent Orange, a combination of herbicides 2,4-D and Monsanto’s 2,4,5-T, was sprayed heavily from the air in Vietnam. It contaminated tens of thousands of Vietnamese people and U.S. soldiers who still suffer from their long-ago exposures.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Monsanto contends it is safe and U.S. regulators allow its use with few restrictions, but there is mounting scientific evidence it is harmful. The World Health Organization in 2015 declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.”
Some independent research shows that GMOs, which Monsanto developed in the 1980s, might: harm pollinators, increase use of pesticides, create chemical-resistant weeds and pests, induce plant viruses, increase risk of cancers, trigger allergies, and produce antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
People exposed to Monsanto’s dangerous chemicals have filed numerous lawsuits against the company, which it typically settles out of court with substantial cash payments.
Monsanto is noted for filing lawsuits against farmers. In some cases, it claims they have violated contract terms preventing them from planting non-GMO seeds or seeds from other sources. In other cases, it files claims against farmers whose fields near a Monsanto GMO field are fertilized from the GMO field – it alleges the neighbors “benefit” from the company’s crops without paying for it.
Monsanto has been convicted of crimes and fined for violations of environmental law and regulations. It paid an $80 million Securities and Exchange Commission fine this year for misstating its earnings and improper accounting. Monsanto has paid penalties for price fixing, bribery, mislabeling its products, and violating chemical testing rules.
In May 2013, protesters in 436 cities of 52 nations joined in a massive March Against Monsanto to oppose its dangerous products and unethical business practices.
Monsanto certainly is not a company that deserves special benefits at the expense of local taxpayers.
Richard Elias is a Pima County Supervisor. He represents District Five.
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