AKWESASNE — German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer AG went into settlement negotiations over multiple lawsuits regarding polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) water contamination by its subsidiary Monsanto totaling $820 million.
Absent from those negotiations was the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which in 2018 joined a lawsuit against Monsanto.
“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,” said Tribal Chief Beverly Cook.
“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.”
The suit was filed by the tribe on behalf of its members who suffer from the long-lasting effects of Monsanto’s PCBs, the tribe said in a press release.
They claim Bayer poisoned the tribe’s members, contaminated its natural resources, and caused irrevocable changes to the tribe’s culture and way of life. Several individual tribal members also filed suit, alleging that Monsanto’s PCBs have increased their risk of cancer and other diseases.
Bayer and Monsanto have denied the tribe’s allegations, saying there is no proof the PCB contamination came from their products. Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018.
Despite being filed well before some cases that were included in settlement negotiations, the tribe was notably absent. Tribal leaders said that it’s discrimination, plain and simple.
“We believe Bayer’s shareholders deserve to know the truth,” said Tribal Chief Eric Thompson.
“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.”
This isn’t the first time the tribe has run into legal hurdles with Bayer, either. In April 2019, the tribe successfully stopped Bayer’s attempts to have the court toss out its case, when Missouri Circuit Court Judge Ellen Ribaudo denied the company’s motions to dismiss.
“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,” said Tribal Chief Michael Connors.
The Telegram reached out to Bayer for comment, but received no response by deadline.