Expert response from Martin Zucker
Former Assistant General Counsel, Monsanto Company
Friday, 06/09/2013 20:16
It is tragic whenever people suffer from serious health problems. The U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange is an emotional issue for many people, due in large part to misinformation.
More than 40 years ago, the U.S. military used Agent Orange as a defoliant in the Vietnam War, and it saved the lives of many U.S. and allied soldiers. The former Monsanto was one of nine companies that manufactured Agent Orange for the government. The nine Agent Orange manufacturers were government contractors acting at the direction of the government which was exercising its authority under the War Powers Act. The government set the manufacturing specifications for Agent Orange, and decided when, where and how it was used. Agent Orange was only made for military use by the government.
In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand lower court rulings that the companies were not responsible for the implications of military use of Agent Orange because the war materials were supplied at the direction of the U.S. government.
A concise and informative summary of Agent Orange can be found in an article written by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, the judge in the United States who handled all Agent Orange litigation for 30 years. Judge Weinstein notes that the idea that Agent Orange might be the cause of a wide variety of alleged personal injury was first suggested after the Vietnam War by a social worker from Chicago, and that idea became widespread in the media, becoming accepted fact without any proof. He writes after handling the litigation for 30 years that there is simply no competent scientific or medical proof that Agent Orange caused the wide array of alleged serious injuries and birth defects.
Outside of the U.S., Agent Orange lawsuits were filed in Korea by several thousand allied veterans from South Korea claiming injury from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Unlike the U.S. litigation which was settled long ago, the Korean matters proceeded through trial and appeals. After carefully considering the evidence for over six years, in July 2013 the Supreme Court of Korea issued a decision which concluded that there was no scientific or medical evidence to support the claim that serious health effects, or aftereffects, were caused by alleged exposure to Agent Orange.
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