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Washington files suit against agricultural giant Monsanto

Washington state is suing agro-chemical giant Monsanto. For decades Monsanto was the sole producer of PCB, an organic chlorine compound. The state is seeking damages and cleanup costs associated with the chemicals.

PCBs have been used in most everyday items like paint and electrical equipment. But they’re also found everywhere — in the soil, rivers and wild fish. Studies have found the chemicals don’t break down easily and they tend to accumulate in animal tissue.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleges the company knew the chemicals were toxic even before Congress banned its production in the late 1970s.

“Monsanto produced these dangerous chemicals despite knowing about the dangers,” Ferguson said. “They concealed that information from the public. Monsanto focused on reaping profits at the expense of the environment and the health of our people.”

Ferguson estimates Monsanto’s responsibility to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He expects the legal fight will be long and complex, similar to the state’s legal challenge against big tobacco. Ferguson said this lawsuit is about more than seeking damages and cleanup costs.

“The identity of our state is in large measure the natural beauty of this great state and the wonderful natural resources that we have,” he said. “And we take our responsibility seriously to protect those resources and that natural beauty.”

To date there are eight West Coast cities, including Seattle and Spokane, with pending lawsuits against Monsanto. Ferguson said Washington is the first state to sue the company.

Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy, Scott S. Partridge, called Washington’s case “highly experimental.”

In an email statement the company said PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades and that this case lacks merit.

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