Let there be no mistake: Monsanto and France are not best friends. In January Monsanto bowed out of selling its “YieldGard” genetically modified maize in the country, citing an unfavorable political climate. Today a court in France found Monsanto guilty of the chemical poisoning of a French farmer.
According to Reuters, the court in Lyon ruled in favor of French grain farmer Paul Francois, who suffers from memory loss, headaches, and stammering, and now claims work invalidity status. Francois credits having inhaled Monsanto’s Lasso brand weed killer back in 2004 for his ongoing neurological problems. The pesticide was banned in France in 2007, at the behest of an EU directive (at that point it had already been banned in several European countries).
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Will this case set a precedent for other farmers facing similar health struggles? It is certainly a hope, although Reuters also points out that Francois faced a unique set of circumstances which helped him to win the case:
The Francois claim may be easier to argue than others because he 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's like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you," said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named.
But the report also indicates that France’s health and environmental safety agency (ANSES) is currently conducting a new study on the health of the country’s farmers – along with the study could come more readily identifiable correlations between pesticides and any damage they may be causing. In the future, cases like Francois’ may be better prevented – and in the case that they aren’t, responsible parties may be better held accountable.