St. Regis Mohawks say they were left out of Monsanto PCB settlement agreements
Edited at 4:20 p.m.July 23
AKWESASNE -- Bayer AG, the German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company, announced on Wednesday, June 24 that it has entered into settlement agreements totaling $820 million to resolve most of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) water contamination lawsuits since its acquisition of Monsanto in 2018.Absent from the global settlement is the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s case, which was filed in St. Louis, Ms. in November 2018 by the tribe on behalf of its tribal members “who continue to suffer from the long-lasting effects of Monsanto’s PCBs that have poisoned its members, contaminated its natural resources, and caused irrevocable changes to the Tribe’s culture and way of life,” a press release from the tribe said.
Several individual tribal members also filed suit, alleging that Monsanto’s PCBs have increased their risk of cancer and other diseases.
“The Akwesasne Mohawks suffer from high levels of cancer and other illnesses that we believe are due to our long-term exposures to Monsanto’s PCBs used by several industrial facilities that were located directly upwind, upriver and adjacent to our community,” stated Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook noted, “We have been working with environmental and scientific research institutions for decades and we know that tribal members have higher levels of certain PCBs in their blood than do persons with no identified source of exposure.”
Bayer did not include the Tribe’s case in Bayer’s settlement discussions, despite the fact that it was filed well before many of the cases that Bayer did settle, and despite the fact that the Tribe has achieved success in initial court proceedings, the release said.
In April 2019, the Tribe prevailed against Bayer/Monsanto’s attempts to have the court toss out its case, when Judge Ellen Ribaudo denied the Defendant’s motions to dismiss. As another example, Bayer decided to include in the settlement Washington, D.C.’s PCB case, involving a non-Native plaintiff, even though that case wasn’t filed until May of 2020.
“We believe Bayer’s shareholders deserve to know the truth,” expressed Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. Chief Thompson added, “Bayer is selectively discriminating against Native Americans, singling them out as not worthy of compensation, and purporting that Tribal governments are less sovereign than the ones with whom Bayer settled.
Tribal Chief Michael Conners shared, “The Tribe notes that Bayer’s racist tactics will not be tolerated and their actions will soon be held accountable in front of a jury. Billions of dollars in liability remain and we will no longer allow the Tribe to be swept under the carpet, as Bayer and its corporate predecessors have done for decades.”
“The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council will not be deterred in its pursuit of justice for the Tribe and its tribal members. The Tribe remains committed to seeking damages for the pollution and contamination inflicted upon Akwesasne from PCBs and looks forward to holding Bayer, its predecessor companies, and its subsidiaries accountable at trial,” the release said.
Bayer Director of US External Communications Dan Childs issued the following statement Tuesday.
“The settlements announced last week by Bayer with local governments and ports regarding PCBs were limited in scope and covered claims brought by municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) operators for costs they claimed were associated with PCBs in their water systems. They did not include any personal injury or related claims like those brought by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.”
An outside consultant from CLS Strategies who said she was working with Bayer on media related to PCB litigation also contacted North Country Now regarding the story.
According to CLS Strategies website, The firm is based in Washington, D.C., "with global reach and experience on six continents, CLS Strategies helps clients win where it matters most – in the halls of government, the marketplace and the court of public opinion.
In his email Childs also said he was dissapointed North Country Now did not reach out for comment prior to running the press release from the tribe.
North Country Now has since offered Bayer the opportunity to respond.