For millions of people, the consequences of Agent Orange, a dangerous herbicide made by bio-tech giant Monsanto, remains a lived reality. Activists, veterans, scientists, and victims in Vietnam and the US alike hope that with the fiftieth anniversary this year of the first spraying of defoliants over Vietnamese forests, waterways, and rural land, the full scope and tragedy finally can come into focus.
Vietnam War scholar and accomplished author Fred Wilcox has studied the after effects of Agent Orange for over thirty years. His latest book, “Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam,” focuses on the stories of both Vietnam veterans and their children, and over 3 million affected individuals throughout Southern Vietnam, who have suffered from a host of physical and developmental ailments due to dioxin exposure.
I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Wilcox a few questions about the ongoing effects of Agent Orange for the Vietnamese and his opinion of Monsanto’s silent domination of the global food system.
Go to the next page to read his responses and view pictures of the legacy Monsanto left behind.
Care2: What was the overall feeling of the victims you interviewed for the book? Do they feel like the public understands the longevity of their suffering?
“The doctors, scientists, care givers, parents, and others I interviewed in Vietnam do not feel that Americans fully understand the legacies of chemical warfare. They believe that the US government is compensating our veterans for the deadly effects of Agent Orange, and can’t understand why neither our government nor the chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange are willing to help millions of Vietnamese adults and 500,000 Vietnamese children who are sick and dying from the effects of chemical warfare.”
Care2: How do you and/or the victims feel about Monsanto’s presence in the agricultural system, both in the U.S. and around the world?
“I don’t know how people in Vietnam feel about the fact that Dow and Monsanto have established offices in the country in which millions of people are suffering because these corporations placed profit over people. My own feeling is that Dow and Monsanto are criminal organizations that should be tried before a world court for committing war crimes in Vietnam. By establishing offices in Vietnam, these corporations show their abiding contempt for the Vietnamese people, and other victims of insatiable greed.”
For the Vietnamese individuals and families affected by Agent Orange, survival is a daily struggle. Children are born with debilitating birth defects to families that can’t afford proper medical treatment and therapy. And Monsanto, the company responsible for their suffering, pretends that they don’t exist. Instead, Monsanto is pushing for its genetically-modified seeds, toxic pesticides and herbicides, and environmentally-hazardous fertilizers to be used without the public’s consent on almost every country of the world. And it’s still using Agent Orange to destroy the Amazon.
Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam and a second edition of Wilcox’ critically acclaimed Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange, published simultaneously this month, focus on the stories of both Vietnam veterans and their children, and over 3 million affected individuals throughout Southern Vietnam, who have suffered from a host of physical and developmental ailments due to dioxin exposure.
Together, the books offer a full-spectrum look at a tragedy that, like the disaster in Japan and the oil spill in the Gulf, has disastrous effects for decades. No one can be sure when, if ever, this calamity will end. Faced with such catastrophe, we should hope that some will ask, what can this teach us?
Images copyright Fred Wilcox