The Power of Corporate Money: Syngenta & Bayer Sue the EU
Author: Heidi Stevenson
Syngenta and Bayer are suing the European Union because they believe they have the right to sell their poisons, even if it kills all the bees and results in mass starvation. They don’t care. They’re corporations. They love one thing: money. And they have the power to get just about anything they want. Here’s the truth of how it got to this point.
The EU Commission recently banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides for two years in an attempt to save the bees. The evidence has been mounting and is all but a slam dunk that these neurological poisons, which are intended to kill other insects, are also killing bees—so much so that they’re headed for extinction. Humanity’s ability to raise the foods required will be severely hit, with the likely result that millions would starve.
It seems obvious that people have the right to protect themselves and nature from the depredations of corporations. Unfortunately, corporate power has grown so great that the right may have been lost. Sadly, though, the European Union and most other governments have helped create this situation. Nearly every government in the world has been handing the rights of citizens over to corporations for several years, usually through treaties, but in the case of the EU, through an even more egregious method.
Differences Between Corporations and Humans
Without the agreement of European citizens, the EU wrote a constitution that strips the citizens of their power. Personhood for corporations was mandated in the constitution. They did this in spite of the fact that a corporation is clearly not a person:
- It can exist for many human lifespans.
- It consists of hundreds, often thousands, even tens of thousands of employees, whereas humans are singular.
- It can amass great wealth that most people can barely imagine, let alone compete with. The long lives of corporations make this possible.
- It exists only on paper, not in any corporeal sense.
- It does not have the same obligations as a human being.
- It is able to remake itself. (More on this later, but this is one of the most significant factors.)
- It doesn’t pay taxes at the same rate as a human.
- Its obligations are strictly financial, not moral.
- It cannot be put in prison, though a human being can.
Clearly, there is no legitimate logic for declaring that a corporation is human. In the documentary, The Corporation, the concept of human is put to the test, and it’s clearly shown that, if a corporation is human, then the type of human is a sociopath. A corporation is required to do one thing, and one thing only: produce profits. Morality plays no role in that function.
A corporation’s ability to survive in terms of multiple lifetimes, even centuries, gives it a different view on issues. When a corporation has produced great harm to people or the environment, it can drag out proceedings for decades. In no way does it suffer by drawing things out, whereas the people harmed or the environment destroyed are devastated by such waits. Further, a corporation’s deep pockets make it possible to produce great phalanxes of lawyers, who can intimidate the people whose lives have been devastated and make it impossible to continue a case because of ill health—usually induced by the corporation—or lack of funds, or simply lack of time. Only the very wealthiest people in the world have the ability to respond.
Even governments are overwhelmed by the might of corporations. At this point, only the biggest have any hope of responding to a lawsuit. The individual states in the US have already backed out when threatened with lawsuits—and many US states have power that’s greater than many of the world’s nations. Even so, earlier this year Vermont’s House of Representatives passed a bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods, but with the proviso that it would not take effect until at least three other neighboring states also passed such a law. They are afraid of corporate lawsuits and hoping that four states together might have the power to withstand them.
The people—and their governments—should be able to simply pass such a law without corporate interference. They should be able to limit the rights of a corporation to sue. However, when corporations are persons under the law, they cannot be stopped from using the courts as if they were individual human beings. But now that’s not possible, because the governments that supposedly represent the people have switched allegiance. They now represent corporations, because corporations have bought them out.
Now, the EU itself, one of the greatest powers on earth, is threatened with a lawsuit by Syngenta and Bayer simply for trying to protect honeybees and our ability to produce food. Because of its constitution granting personhood to corporations, there is no way for the EU to stop the suit from going forward. The people will be forced to spend whatever it takes to battle the Syngenta-Bayer behemoths, or give in to a future without bees.
Syngenta and Bayer are doing what they must, protecting their profits. Neonicotinoids are huge money makers for them. That they kill bees—and, by the way, also damage human neurological systems—is meaningless to a corporation. It has nothing to do with profits. The toxicity of neonicotinoids is hundreds of times greater than dioxin, but that’s irrelevant to the corporation’s interests, which are solely profits.
A corporation should be able to exist only at the mercy of the people. If the people do not want a corporation to do or sell something, for any reason, the corporation should not be able to continue. Yes, it’s true that people work for corporations, but if a corporation truly fills a need, then others will come along to fill it and create jobs. What reliance we do have on these monsters needs to be broken. If we don’t do that, these behemoths will surely kill us all.
Corporations have a host of techniques for evading responsibility. Clearly, one of those methods is now simply going to court, as if they were human with human rights. However, they’ve found other means to avoid taking responsibility for the nightmares they’ve brought.
Monsanto has always been a horror of a corporation, possibly the leading light of them all. Their products have always been killers. As a result, they were sued time and time again over decades. Unlike today, they didn’t have the same clout in courts and sometimes lost cases—though even when they did, it was nearly always too late for those who’d been harmed.
But Monsanto found a clever way to evade all responsibility and not pay for any of the harms they’d done. They created a strong of sub-companies, most with similar names. One of them became the company that owned all the lawsuits, but few of the assets. The result was that, for the most part, the original corporation couldn’t be touched! In fact, Monsanto now claims that it isn’t even the same corporation that was sued.
Technically, that’s true … but it’s certainly not something that a human being can do. If you’re sued, then you’re the one who’s stuck. You can’t spin off a few of yourself, define one of those selves as responsible for the debts, and then go on your merry way.
But Monsanto did just that. They just reassembled themselves and made themselves—including the executives who’d overseen and profited from some of the causes of the lawsuits—untouchable for most of their criminal acts.
Corporations are not people, but perhaps we could start treating them as if they were. That would, of course, mean that the real people who work for them would have to take the punishment, because there’s no way to put a corporation in prison. The fact is that fines are merely a cost of doing business, and ultimately the ones who end up paying that cost are the customers, you and me. In fact, they simply plan ahead when it looks like there might be a fine looming on the horizon, take a hit on their books, and move along. Unsurprisingly, fines aren’t working.
A Brief History of US Corporations
In the US, corporations were originally very limited organizations:
- They could exist to do one thing, and that one thing had to be a project that benefited the public.
- Once that thing was done, the corporation was disbanded.
- Even if the project wasn’t finished, the corporation was disbanded after a specified period of years.
- The corporation could not engage in any activities unrelated to the purpose for which they were chartered.
- They could be disbanded for breaking the terms of their charters, and often were.
- The owners and managers could be held liable for the corporation’s actions.
- Corporations could not be involved in any activities affecting the law or public policy.
They were limited in many other ways and governments had full control over their activities. It was like this because Americans remembered why they’d engaged in a revolution. It wasn’t so much against English rule, but rather against the enormous power of a few corporations that were making the colonists’ lives miserable. In fact, the Boston Tea Party was a reaction against corporate rules, not the English government.
The laws regarding corporations, though, changed, though initially those changes came very slowly. However, when the industrial age came into full swing, the game started to change. Then, the Civil War came along and the governments spent very heavily on corporate war products. This resulted in fabulous wealth for corporations and those who ran them. As we’re seeing today, that wealth was turned to changing the rules.
Finally, in 1886, the case of Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad reached the Supreme Court. Although the justices did not rule on one point in front of it, the clerk who wrote the case notes reported the results incorrectly. That key point was the issue of whether corporations should be considered persons.
Whether the clerk made an error or intentionally did it, we don’t know. What we do know is that he incorrectly stated that the justices ruled to recognize corporate personhood. It’s been downhill ever since. Following courts didn’t read the actual notes of the case. They simply went along with the statement made by the clerk. They seemed to go on a spree knocking down state and local laws that had protected people from corporations.
By 1941, a United States Congressional Committee wrote:
The principal instrument of the concentration of economic power and wealth has been the corporate charter with unlimited power …
We are now seeing just how devastating and corrupt such power can be. It’s been unleashed and is doing as it will. With the increased wealth and power that corporate personhood now wields, even the greatest nations are wilting in front of them.
There is now only one thing that can bring them down, and that is people power. People need to wake up and see what’s really happening. Yes, corporations are running rampant. No, they don’t care for anything but profits, which translate into wealth and power. The rules, which they put into force, albeit indirectly, are virtually all in their favor. They own the governments, which now act primarily for their benefit, not the people’s. They own the resources. And right now, they own most of the people, though the people don’t generally realize it.
Whatever your particular concern is—banking, insurance, war, climate change, environmental devastation, nuclear power, petroleum, agribusiness, food freedom, medical malpractice, psychiatric abuse, vaccines, pharmaceutical drugs, unfair labor practices, civil rights, or any other—it makes no difference. The roots of the problem you’re fighting are the same: corporations run rampant. It’s long past time for all the people to come together and recognize that they’re all fighting for the same thing: freedom from corporate rule.
- European Commission Pesticide Ban Is Challenged; Britt E. Erickson; Chemical & Engineering News.
- Syngenta submits legal challenge to EU suspension of thiamethoxam; Syngenta.
- Syngenta challenges EU pesticide ban; Food Navigator.com.
- Neonicotinoids Ban: Syngenta and Bayer Sue European Commission; EU Reporter Magazine.
- Vermont’s GM labeling bill wins House, heads to Senate.
- Our Hidden History or Corporations in the United States
- Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad
- The History of Corporations in the United States
- The Corporation & America: Rewriting History to Justify Greed.