Global campaign movement Avaaz has been served with a 168-page subpoena demanding almost a decade’s worth of internal campaign communications and member data be turned over to Monsanto. Avaaz, with 46-million members around the world, has been part of the movement to regulate glyphosate from the US to the European Union – glyphosate is the cornerstone chemical in Monsanto’s $50 billion empire. Avaaz’s members have voted to fight the subpoena.
The subpoena, issued on behalf of Monsanto from a New York court, is notable for its scope. It covers every Avaaz email, note, and record regarding Monsanto or glyphosate, including the names and email addresses of Avaaz members who have signed Monsanto petitions. The subpoena specifically covers several of Avaaz’s campaigns, including: the group’s successful effort in 2017 to help move the EU not to reissue a 15-year license for glyphosate; its successful 2013 effort to help block a Monsanto genetically-modified seed factory in Argentina; and an ongoing campaign to stop the merger between Monsanto and Bayer.
THE GLYPHOSATE BOX
Monsanto has a history of going after its critics in court. In 2017, the company sued the State of California for its decision to include glyphosate on the state’s list of products known to cause cancer, and that same year Monsanto sued the Arkansas Plant Board over a proposed ban on its herbicide Dicamba, after it was linked to widespread crop damage.
The subpoena was issued as part of Peterson v. Monsanto Co., a case pending in the Circuit Court of St. Louis, Missouri, that involves two men who allege that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup, a product containing glyphosate, caused their non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Notably, all of Avaaz’s advocacy efforts on glyphosate occurred after the plaintiffs had stopped using Roundup and had already been diagnosed with cancer.
Avaaz is being represented by the New York firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, LLP (by Andrew G. Celli, Jr and Douglas Lieb).
Emma Ruby-Sachs, Deputy Director of Avaaz, in response to the subpoena stated; “Avaaz beat Monsanto in Europe and in Argentina, and so they’re coming after us in US courts. Monsanto is infamous for its corporate bullying, but this time they’ve picked a fight with a movement of nearly 50 million people who are going to fight back.
“Imagine a world where any time you called on your government to regulate a corporation because science showed its products could be making people sick, that corporation could force you to reveal everything you and your friends had ever privately written or said about them. That is the world Monsanto is hoping to create.
“There are millions of people around the world who have a deep and genuine concern that Monsanto’s glyphosate is making us and our environment sick. That is the sole reason our members have called on governments to regulate it based on independent science. We’re not going to let this legal attack slow down that essential work one bit.
“We believe Monsanto’s demand for all our internal communications is a complete violation of our First Amendment rights — they even go after the email addresses of hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members! And, critically, none of this has anything to do with Ronald Peterson and Jeff Hall’s claim that Monsanto’s products gave them cancer.”