It is at the initiative of Tran To Nga, born in 1942 in what was then French Indochina, that this unprecedented lawsuit against agrochemical companies can take place today. Engaged during the conflict in the North Camp, she says she was the victim, like millions of others, of the spraying of toxic herbicides practiced by the American army between 1961 and 1971.

The United States have indeed spread millions of liters of a very toxic defoliant, containing “Agent Orange” on Vietnamese and Laotian forests to prevent the advance of the Communist guerrilla war against the South.

13 times more toxic than glyphosate

“Agent orange” destroys vegetation, pollutes soil, poisons plants and animals … The health consequences on the population (cancer, malformations) are still being felt today, not to mention the long-term impact on the environment. Agent Orange, a dioxin with a toxic power thirteen times greater than civilian herbicides such as glyphosate for example.

Supported by many associations, Tran To Nga filed a complaint in 2014 against 14 companies having manufactured or marketed this chemical compound, including Monsanto (acquired in 2018 by the German Bayer) and the American manufacturer Dow Chemical. Through this historic trial Monday at the court of Evry (Essonne), the septuagenarian intends to participate in the international recognition of the crime of “ecocide”.

Recognition for Vietnamese victims

Four million people have been exposed to “Agent Orange” in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, say NGOs defending the victims. “Recognition of Vietnamese civilian casualties will set a legal precedent” if the responsibility of multinationals is established, explains Valérie Cabanes, lawyer in international law. Until now, only American, Australian and Korean veterans who fought in Vietnam (link in English editor’s note) were compensated in court cases between 1987 and 2013.

Family extermination

Yes “research is still in progress” to determine his physical damage, Tran To Nga explains suffering from pathologies “characteristics” exposure to “agent orange”, such as type 2 diabetes with an allergy to insulin “extremely rare”. She also contracted two tuberculosis, was diagnosed with cancer and one of her daughters died of a heart defect.

The health consequences of this carcinogenic and teratogenic dioxin, which attacks the immune system, are passed on to subsequent generations, which constitutes a real “family extermination”, judge Tran To Nga.

Each year, around 6,000 children are born in Vietnam with “Congenital malformations” adds Mrs Cabanes. “It is not for myself that I am fighting”, declares this woman of 79, but “for my children” and “these millions of victims” explains this septuagenarian, who says she is leading the last fight of her life with this trial.

Is Agent Orange France’s Business?

According to Bayer-Monsanto, it is the US government that is responsible for the use of Agent Orange in wartime. This is the argument put forward by Me Jean-Daniel Bretzner, the lawyer for Bayer-Monsanto, who argued that these companies “were acting on the order of a State and on its behalf”.

He argued that the companies involved could benefit from jurisdictional immunity and that the Evry court was not competent to judge the action of a sovereign foreign state within the framework of “a policy of defense “in wartime.

But in the event of victory of the lawsuit, the jurisprudence would recognize the responsibility of these large agrochemical firms in the attack with the life of the people and the environment. Something to worry about the defenders of glyphosate.