In a judgment that could strongly influence other health claims against pesticides, a French court has found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer.
Grain grower Paul Francois, 47, says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004, and blames Monsanto for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.
Reuters claims this is the first such case heard in court in France.
Previous health claims from farmers have collapsed because of the failure in establishing clear and direct links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides, and in this case Monsanto’s attorney said the company considered there were not sufficient elements to establish a causal relationship between Paul Francois’s symptoms and a potential poisoning.
But Reuters noted that the Francois claim was easier to argue than others because Francois can pinpoint a specific incident — inhaling the Lasso when cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer — whereas fellow farmers are trying to show accumulated effects from various products.
“It is a historic decision in so far as it is the first time that a (pesticide) maker is found guilty of such a poisoning,” François Lafforgue, Francois’s lawyer, told Reuters.
In 2007, Monsanto’s Lasso was banned in France pursuant to an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries. Reuters says France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is now targetting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.
The French social security’s farming branch is adding Parkinson’s disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use and already recognizes some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.
Last year in the United States, over 270,000 organic farmers sued Monsanto. The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan.
Because Monsanto has sued US and Canadian farmers in the past when their patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops, the plaintiffs decided to sue Monsanto preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
“Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here,” said Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine. “Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now.”
Gerritsen is a family farmer who raises organic seed and is President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families.”