Photo: Wikimedia CommonsThe city of Berkeley recently voted to file a lawsuit against Monsanto for contaminating the San Francisco Bay with PCBs.

The City Berkeley Council voted 6-0 in closed session on January 5th to go forward with the lawsuit.

PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a type of chemical that has now been proven as carcinogenic. However, it was widely used by Monsanto between 1935 and 1977 until it was eventually outlawed in 1979. The chemical was used mostly for manufacturing items like paint, ink, caulk, lubricants and other similar products.

“All segments of the Bay have been identified as impaired due to elevated levels of PCBs in sport fish. Monsanto’s conduct was malicious, oppressive, wanton, willful, intentional, and shocks the conscience, warranting punitive and exemplary damages, because Monsanto callously decided to increase sales and develop new ways to promote PCBs, knowing PCBs are toxic, cannot be contained, and last for centuries,” the lawsuit says.

Councilman Kriss Worthington said that Monsanto’s activities are “a classic example of a corporation externalizing costs and the public getting stuck with paying the bill.”

Monsanto responded to the suit in an email, saying that, “The former Monsanto was involved in a wide variety of businesses including the manufacture of PCBs. PCBs were industrial chemicals, which were sold to sophisticated companies who incorporated them as safety fluids into … thousands of useful construction and building material products. Monsanto is not responsible for the costs alleged in this matter. PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products.”

This is just the newest obstacle during an extremely difficult time for the company.

As we reported last year, Monsanto has been experiencing a downslide in their overall profits, despite continued growth in their key markets of herbicide and GMO seeds. Also last year, the infamous company announced that it will be cutting 2,600 jobs, 12% of its workforce, in order cut costs. It was also announced that they saw a loss of 19 cents per share in the most recent quarter, and profits are expected to remain low throughout the year

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