NOTE: Very little information seems to be available about this new lawsuit against Monsanto but it seems to centre around allegations of involuntary experimentation with toxic materials. This dissertation seems to have relevant background to the lawcase.

It's a little known fact that Monsanto contributed to the Manhattan Project, which lead to the atomic bomb, and continued to operate a nuclear facility for the U.S. government until the late 1980s. The lawsuit seems to relate primarily to this area of Monsanto's activities.

This is about Monsanto's past. But the company's historical record is still relevant when it comes to issues of public and employee safety and protection, regulatory compliance, customer care, etc. This is particularly relevant to the regulation of GM crops, as it is almost entirely dependent on trust, with regulators normally basing their assessments of environmental risk and food safety on data from unpublished studies provided to them in confidence by the GM firms that developed the crop.

Over the years Monsanto has been hit by a series of lawsuits. It was one of the companies named in 1987 in an $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In 1991 Monsanto was fined $1.2 million for trying to conceal the discharge of contaminated waste water. In 1995 Monsanto was ordered to pay $41.1 million to a waste management company in Texas due to concerns over hazardous waste dumping. That same year Monsanto was ranked fifth among U.S. corporations in EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, having discharged 37 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, land, water, and underground. In 1997 The Seattle Times reported that Monsanto sold 6,000 tons of contaminated waste to Idaho fertilizer companies, which contained the carcinogenic heavy metal cadmium.

Then in 2002 the Washington Post ran an article entitled, "Monsanto Hid Decades Of Pollution, PCBs Drenched Ala. Town, But No One Was Ever Told". Internal company papers show that Monsanto knew about the PCB dangers from early on. In a paper distributed to only 12 people but which surfaced at the trial in 2002, Monsanto admitted "that the evidence proving the persistence of these compounds and their universal presence as residues in the environment is beyond question ... the public and legal pressures to eliminate them to prevent global contamination are inevitable".

Monsanto papers seen by The Guardian newspaper reveal near panic. "The subject is snowballing. Where do we go from here? The alternatives: go out of business, sell the hell out of them as long as we can and do nothing else, try to stay in business, have alternative products", wrote the recipient of one paper. In 1969 the company wrote a confidential Pollution Abatement Plan which admitted that "the problem involves the entire United States, Canada, and sections of Europe, especially the UK and Sweden".

The problem was particularly severe in the town of Anniston in Alabama where discharges from the local Monsanto plant meant residents developed PCB levels hundreds or thousands of times the average. As The Washington Post reported, "for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents -- many emblazoned with warnings such as 'CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy' -- show that for decades, the corporate giant concealed what it did and what it knew."

Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says that based on the Monsanto documents made public, the company "knew the truth from the very beginning. They lied about it. They hid the truth from their neighbors." One Monsanto memo explains their justification: "We can't afford to lose one dollar of business." Eventually the company was found guilty of conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society".

But by the time that the Anniston pollution case came to court, Monsanto had already managed to hive off the old core of its business into a new company called Solutia. Although Monsanto and Solutia eventually agreed to pay $600 million to settle claims brought by more than 20,000 Anniston residents, Monsanto had by then relaunched itself as an agricultural biotechnology company.
Suit claims Monsanto used St. Louis public housing residents as guinea pigs (access required)
Melissa Meinzer
Missouri Lawyers, October 30 2012

A class-action suit in circuit court in the city of St. Louis alleges that Monsanto used the ill-fated Pruitt-Igoe housing project as a laboratory, conducting dangerous tests on the inhabitants without their consent.