Almost exactly 55 years ago, the US military began a campaign to spray massive quantities of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange over the jungles of South Vietnam – its supposed ally — in a effort to kill the plants that gave cover and food to hostile forces. To this day, an estimated 3 million people have suffered severe health problems, including birth defects, from exposure to the dioxin-containing herbicide.
Monsanto was one of several companies tapped by the US government to produce Agent Orange. But today, Monsanto’s business is booming in Vietnam, with the company peddling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and Roundup herbicide to farmers willing to believe its false promises about increased yields and higher profits.
How many millions will be poisoned by GMOs?
Between 1961 and 1971, the US Army dumped 12 million gallons of Agent Orange across South Vietnam, such that some zones remain contaminated with dioxin to this day.
Similar contamination in certain regions of the United States is a major motivator behind the purchase of storable organic foods.
Monsanto denies any responsibility for the toxic effects of Agent Orange on either Vietnamese citizens or US veterans, claiming that it shares nothing other than a name with the company that made the defoliant. Monsanto also says it was one of only several companies that made the toxic chemical at the behest of the US government.
A US court agreed, finding that companies that made Agent Orange on government orders could not be tried for war crimes.
On its end, the US government refuses to even admit that there is a proven link between Agent Orange exposure and health problems. This has been a sticking point with the government of Vietnam, which as far back as 1997 – just two years into talks on normalizing relations between the nations – asked the US to cooperate in finding justice for Agent Orange victims. No agreement on the issue was ever reached.
What the US did instead was work to promote www.monsantomafia.com Monsanto’s GMOs, such that three separate varieties of GMO corn are now permitted for cultivation in Vietnam. More GMOs are expected to receive approval soon. Monsanto is lauded in the local Vietnamese press for its donations to agricultural universities and educational NGOs.
US goes to bat for Monsanto
Public documents and WikiLeaks leaked diplomatic cables reveal that the US embassy actively colluded with Monsanto to promote the adoption of GMOs in Vietnam. When Vietnam began drafting laws to regulate biotechnology a decade ago, the US embassy sponsored visits by pro-Monsanto scientists to tout the supposed benefits of GMOs. For example, the embassy organized an weeklong “biotech study tour” for eight senior Vietnamese officials in December 2007. A USDA report about the tour reported the outcome as having made “key connections with Monsanto.”
A WikiLeaks cable shows that in 2009, the US Ambassador wrote to the then-head of the Office of the Government (now the Prime Minister) to ask that mandatory GMO labeling provisions be removed from a food safety bill.
“The [Vietnamese} government was getting skewed advice from the biotech industry and from their chief supporter—the U.S. government,” said Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception.
More recently, Monsanto has cultivated goodwill among farmers by throwing lavish parties to celebrate the launch of its GMO crops.
The efforts are paying off. Farmers interviewed by Huffington Post expressed skepticism that Monsanto played any role in producing Agent Orange, and simply repeated the company’s promises about the profits GMOs could bring.
This blind trust in a company that has proven untrustworthy is helped by a Vietnamese press that has mostly neglected to air the views of any domestic or foreign GMO critics, and has refused to make the Monsanto-Agent Orange connection.
The Vietnamese government says it hopes to have 30 to 50 percent of its cropland planted with GMOs by 2020.