Living the lie

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Agent Orange activist confronts Monsanto

Len Aldis, Secretary of the Britain -Vietnam Friendship Society, wrote to Nguyen Anh Thi, director of Monsanto Vietnam, asking him to discuss Agent Orange, which Monsanto manufactured and the US government sprayed in Vietnam, poisoning millions.

Aldis asked for a meeting, but Thi said he was out of town and replied with a pre-written statement from Monsanto:

"During the Vietnam War, the US government, using its authority under the Defence Production Act, directed seven companies to manufacture this material [Agent Orange].The government specified how it would be produced and controlled how it was used in the field, including application rates...

"...The research on the issue of Agent Orange has gone on more than 30 years and continues today... all of this study has not conclusively demonstrated a cause-and-effect link between spraying of Agent Orange and the diseases that were evaluated."

On October 19, Aldis wrote back to Thi:

"Mr Nguyen, the danger of dioxin was known at the time of manufacture. The companies knew but shamefully kept silent.

Due to the US government requirement for more supplies of Agent Orange, the process of manufacturing was speeded up, so leading to yet more dioxin being produced. I repeat the companies knew of this but remained silent.

If the speed of manufacturing had remained as it was, the production of dioxin would have been much less. The companies that knew this - and I include Monsanto - must therefore share part of the blame along with the US government for the horrific consequences of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

I must take issue with you when you write 'All of this study has not conclusively demonstrated a cause-and-effect link between spraying of Agent Orange and the diseases that were evaluated.' Mr Nguyen, this is an incredible statement that flies in the face of international research carried out by scientists from a number of countries.

The National Academy of Science has published lists of illnesses and disabilities due to the use of Agent Orange. These illnesses and disabilities are on record and cannot be denied.

US Veterans succeeded in their lawsuits against the companies that manufactured Agent Orange for the effects it has had on them, and their children, this is on record. In 1984 Monsanto was one of the companies involved in the out of court settlement of US$180 million. Mr Nguyen, if Agent Orange does not cause illnesses or disabilities, why did the companies agree to pay $184 million?

Let me remind you that 80 million liters of Agent Orange were sprayed over areas of Vietnam, not areas of the US. More reason surely for the companies, and the US government to make a financial settlement to the Vietnamese victims, and to their families.

I hope that you will make that visit to the Peace Village at Tu Du Hospital and see the children and teenagers, victims of Agent Orange, that I have seen. Look at the glass containers in the special room that contain the babies, stillborn due to the horrific abnormalities caused by Agent Orange. Look carefully at them Mr Nguyen, you will then perhaps understand the anger felt by thousands of people like me who will continue to seek justice for these tragic victims of the products produced by Monsanto.

Look also at the living youngsters in Tu Du, they are just a few of the many thousands of victims born years after the use of Agent Orange ended. Victims, Mr Nguyen, that need 24 hours attention day in day out, year in year out. These are the results of the product manufactured by the company you represent.

The New York Times on October 13 reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs had recognized three new afflictions as linked to Agent Orange exposure. The VA will now start providing free care to any of the 2.1 million Vietnam-era veterans who can show that they might have contracted any of those diseases by their exposure to Agent Orange.

Mr Nguyen, surely you must now agree that this report shows beyond any doubt that Agent Orange has had serious effects on the lives of US veterans and their families. I must also remind you again that 80 million liters of Agent Orange was sprayed over South Vietnam and not the US. In Ho Chi Minh City, at Tu Du Hospital, you can see the young living victims affected by Agent Orange."

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