In February 2012 Reuters reported that a court in Lyon, southeast France, declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of grain grower Paul Francois, 47, who suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.
The court ordered an expert opinion to establish the amount of damages due to him. “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.
The agricultural branch of the French social security system says that, since 1996, it has gathered farmers’ reports of sickness potentially related to pesticides, with about 200 alerts a year, but only a small proportion of these – 47 – have been recognised as such in the past 10 years. This year it will add Parkinson’s disease to its list of pesticide-related conditions after recognising some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.
Francois and other farmers suffering from illness had to set up an association last year to make the case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.
France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is now targetting a 50% reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4% cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.
The French health and environmental safety agency (ANSES) is conducting a study on farmers’ health, with results expected next year.