Ethics: Monsanto vs. Francois Chemical Poisoning Ethical Scenario

According to Harman, ethics or moral philosophy is a discipline in the social sciences that undertakes the persistent, systematic, and rational defence of the concept of right or wrong. Psychologists coined the word ethics from a Greek noun ethos, which means habit or the acceptable custom. In psychology, ethics examines the broad question of what is right or wrong when exposed in varying subjective situations. Therefore, in the analysis of ethics as a deeper concept, psychologists do not follow rigid referral guides but rather consider all underlying factors that affected the decisions and reactions of the actor. For that reason, ethics examination presupposes rationality and examination of a situation from the imagination theory perspective to understand the rational options and predispositions of all the parties involved. The purpose of this research review is to examine a specific case study, which involves a business ethics. The author examines the particulars that present the case as an ethical issue and offers an objective solution to the problem.

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Case Study

In 2012, Paul Francois filed a suit against Monsanto agricultural chemical company. He accused the pesticide manufacturer of selling unregulated products, particularly Lasso weed killer, which caused him neurological issues that included memory loss and intense headaches. The court of Southeast France found Monsanto guilty of the allegations. The jury argued that the chemicals produced by the company had detrimental consequences to human biological functioning. Uncertain with the ruling of the Southeast France court, the defendant filed an appeal in the France Supreme Court. After years of deliberations, the court also found Monsanto guilty of the same charges.

Before the ruling, both courts hired experts in evidence analysis and human chemical composition to determine the correlation between the illnesses and the Lasso weed killer manufactured by Monsanto. The case was vital for the farmers. Earlier attempts to prosecute the manufacturer had failed because the farmers did not follow the safety manual provided together with the products. Thus, they took full liability for their health issues despite the empirical proof that Monsanto products were the cause.

The central argument of the plaintiff was that although he had an idea that the pesticides from Monsanto could be dangerous, the manufacturer did not give adequate warning before the sale. Similarly, he argued that the warning found in the Lasso packaging bags was commercialized, hence missing the central objective of warning the farmers of the adverse consequences. In a court proceeding, Francois pleaded with the court to compensate not only the suffering farmers but also the farmers with a record of handling Lasso . The expert found that the Lasso product was indeed the cause of neurological problems. After the case had been determined, more farmers filed suits complaining about the same issues. The recurring issues were dizziness, memory loss, mild and later intensive headaches, and backaches.

Examination/Justification of Ethical Scenario

Although the case Monsanto vs Francois is a perfect example of civil misconduct, it also qualifies as an ethical issue across business processes. It is the duty of any manufacturer to ensure that the products sold in the market are safe for consumption and pose no threat to the larger population. Nevertheless, in the given case study, it was impossible for Monsanto to deliver poison free chemical depending on the product design and chemical composition. Notwithstanding the impossibility of presenting a safe counter product for Lasso, the organisation failed to give enough warning to the product consumers. The issue presents an internal ethical dilemma to the management of Monsanto. The central objective of any organisation is to increase sales. In the case above, this might not be possible if the company gave the true information to the farmers.

Most of the products that circulate in the market have negative influence when used inappropriately. As such, the business ethical codes dictate that the manufacturers should give a detailed description, ensuring human safety and environmental stewardship. For instance, pharmaceutical medicines are one of the most dangerous chemical combination products in the market today. Therefore, all pharmaceutical manufacturing companies accompany their drugs with a user manual and their chemical composition. Additionally, they also offer well-defined consequences of the drug abuse or failure to follow the application procedures. When seeking to achieve this and still maintain their profitability, most organisations face an ethical dilemma. In a similar way, Monsanto manufacturing company had the social, ethical, and moral responsibility to give accurate details to the farmers and avoid biological contamination after the chemical use. In the ethical dilemma, Monsanto decided to act in disregard of the consequences.

In ethics or moral philosophy, scholars and evidence experts use distinctive philosophical theories to discern right from wrong. McCloskey defines meta-ethics as a branch of ethics that analyses the rationality of the existence of right or wrong. In a way, meta-ethics is the core aspect of ethics as it justifies the possibility to distinguish between right or wrong. The branch examines the universal understanding and cognitive analysis of facts and values that classify one action as acceptable and another one as deviant. However, meta-ethics is not applicable to subjective decisions, but rather seeks to examine the logical examination of the right and wrong.

When examining the morality, scholars use both the anti-realism and realism to decipher the moral righteousness of a situation. The anti-realism helps the psychologists to undercut the actor’s predispositions that can otherwise affect an action. On the compliment, the realism meta-ethics assists the psychologists in analysing the universal moral facts. In the case study, there are no substantial defensive arguments that could have propelled the Monsanto to distribute the poisoned chemical. On the contrary, the organisation distributed the chemicals due to their egocentric desire to accumulate profits at the expenses of the farmers.

Unlike other civil and consequential losses suits, ethics calls for a more subjective case analysis. The compensation suits follow the tangible consequences as compared to the projected objectives of an action. Conversely, the examination of the morality of an action requires a multi-perspective argument that presents all the viable options of the defendant before focusing on the preferred action decision. As such, it is rational to argue that the jury in charge of Monsanto vs. Francois analysed the ethical issue by examining the foregone costs of every decision. For instance, if the Monsanto manufacturers had decided to give a truthful warning of the expected consequences after inhaling Lasso, the most viable consequence could have been reduced sales, as farmers would have sought for better and safer options. It is also palpable that the organisation was aware of the consequences the farmers would face but still preferred its reputation and the sales of Lasso to the protection of human health.

In the light of normative ethics, the decision taken by Monsanto was unethical and morally wrong. Normative ethics examines the most acceptable and ethical action. Unlike meta-ethics that seeks to understand the ethical and moral language, the normative ethics examines the standard of wrongness or rightness of an action. In the traditional philosophy, normative ethics offered a balanced approach to determining whether an action was morally right or wrong. The core tenet of the approach is to analyse the perpetrator’s decision while considering all the underlying situational factors. After such an analysis, one can strongly opine that the Monsanto was guilty of the charges.

Recommended Solutions

By giving wrong information to the farmers, Monsanto violated the ethical code as well as the global chemical and pesticide policies. The policies follow the applied ethics manual that integrates the theories into people’s daily lives. The branch seeks to integrate ethical theories into real-life actions and processes. Therefore, philosophers develop ethics that are subjective to every occupation and situation. Every social actor is expected to follow these formal ethics with the minimal exception in the case of probable cause. For instance, in medical ethics, a medical practitioner can bend the ethical rules if the life of patients is in danger and the ethical expectations reduce the chances of saving them.

Cotton asserts that the central objective of applied ethics is to ensure that all individuals operate within the same ethical boundaries to enhance monetary competitiveness and standards of the services delivered. Nevertheless, despite the flexibility of ethical judgements, there are some actions that are naturally unethical. The scholar described these actions as those that seek to satisfy egocentrism of the actor without observing the moral uprightness. The Monsanto vs. Francois case is a perfect example of egocentrism and irrationality as the defendant had nothing to lose by giving the right labelling of Lasso product. In a retrospect, by exercising the requirement, Monsanto could have complied with the expected ethical requirements, thus having the same competitive advantage as all other international chemical manufacturers. As such, despite internal predispositions of any manufacturer, one must meet the expected ethical code or have probable cause as to why one broke the codes. Ethical codes are general and mandatory despite the cultural, economic, or political affiliation of the layers, especially the recipient. 

After the examination of the Monsanto vs. Francois case, in the light of distinguished ethical theories, it is objective to support the decision of the Southeast France court and the France Court of Appeal. Both courts sustained a ruling, ordering Monsanto to compensate fully all the affected farmers and recall all the circulating Lasso products. The ruling acts are the way of keeping the public safe not only from Monsanto manufacturers but also from other potential manufacturers. If the court had ruled in the favour of the defendant, other manufacturers might have adopted the same tactic to increase their sales and reduce precaution costs. Conclusively, although the case is a mild ethical dilemma case at Monsanto managerial level, it is a vivid violation of the ethical code from a higher perspective. For these reasons, I feel that, although right, the decision of the Southeast Court was insufficient. On the contrary, the manufacturer should have also received a periodical ban and revocation of practise license.

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