Daniel Farber, Sho Sato Professor of Law, discusses on the NPR radio show Marketplace some of the possible legal and environmental questions at play in a product liability lawsuit filed by General Electric workers against Monsanto Co. The workers claim they were exposed to toxic chemicals made for decades by Monsanto while they were employed by GE. The lawsuit, filed in mid-December by 590 current employees of a GE plant in Schenectady, New York, names Monsanto, Pharmacia (which is now owned by Pfizer Inc.), and bankrupt Solutia Inc., a Monsanto spokesman told Reuters. The suit claims personal injury and fear of future disease related to contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which Congress banned in 1978 and found to be dangerous to human health. The suit alleges the hazardous chemicals have been leaking from creek beds and landfills in recent years, exposing GE workers, a Monsanto spokesman told Reuters. “Any liability likely rested with General Electric, which used Monsanto’s PCB’s for heat transfer fluids used with electrical transformers and was responsible for disposal of chemicals,” the Monsanto spokesman said. Acccording to Reuters: “Monsanto made PCB’s from 1935 to 1977 and the GE worker lawsuit is but one of a series of claims alleging contamination. Monsanto spun off its chemicals business as Solutia in 1997. Solutia filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003, claiming Monsanto-related chemical liability issues contributed to its downfall. Pharmacia is involved because it acquired Monsanto in 2000; Monsanto was then spun off as an independent agricultural products and technology company in 2002.”
To listen to the audio broadcast, please visit the Marketplace.