Wednesday, February 15, 2012


French court orders Monsanto to compensate poisoned farmer

AFP Feb 14, 2012, 08.56AM IST
LYON, France: A French court on Monday found US agro giant Monsanto legally responsible for the poisoning of a farmer with one of its herbicides in 2004, in a verdict that could have global implications.
"Monsanto is responsible for Paul Francois's suffering after he inhaled the Lasso product ... and must entirely compensate him," said the judgement from the court in the southeastern city of Lyon.
"This concerns farmers around the world," said the farmer's lawyer, Francois Lafforgue.
Grain farmer Francois, 47, inhaled the powerful weedkiller when he opened up a sprayer in 2004. He became nauseated, began stuttering and suffered dizziness, headaches and muscular aches, rendering him unable to work for a year.
Monsanto was accused of keeping Lasso on the French market until 2007 despite bans of the product in Canada, Britain and Belgium.
The company also failed to say what its product contained on the label or warn of the risks of inhalation or advise the user to wear a mask, Lafforgue said.
Monsanto's lawyer Jean-Philippe Delsart had argued that there was no proof of poisoning as the farmer's symptoms did not appear until months after the inhalation.
Monsanto said the firm had not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.
"We feel that there are not sufficient scientific elements that demonstrate the causal link between the use of Lasso and Mr Francois's health problems," said Yann Fichet, Monsanto France's head of institutional relations.
Generations Futures, which lobbies against the massive use of pesticides, hailed the ruling.
"The recognition of Monsanto's responsibility in this matter is essential: plant care companies know that from now on they can no longer shirk their responsibilities," said spokesman Francois Veillerette.
"This is an important step for all farmers and the other victims of pesticides who can at last see firms' responsibility challenged for painful illnesses that affect them, and have their suffering compensated."
Militant environmentalist and European Parliament member Jose Bove said that France's system for authorising pesticides should be reformed.
Lasso "was classified as dangerous in the 1980s ... (but) it was only withdrawn in 2007, which shows that the problem of authorisations for these pesticides must be completely overhauled," he told AFP.


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