Multinational agritech corporation Monsanto is in hot water, again.
A French court has declared the corporation guilty of chemical poisoning of a local farmer. Paul Francois, 47, says he has suffered neurological problems including headaches, memory loss, and stammering after inhaling Lasso, Monsanto’s weed killer, in 2004. The product was banned in France in 2007. He lays the blame on Monsanto for not putting proper warnings on the product label.
The court ordered an expert opinion of Francois’s condition to establish the amount and credibility of the damages. This is the first time in history that a pesticide maker has been found guilty of poisoning, so it’s a big step that could lead to other claims against Monsanto and other harmful pesticide companies.
The company is considering filing an appeal, claiming there is not enough evidence to link their product to the symptoms of Francois. This isn’t the first time a farmer has tried to accuse the company of this, either, but previous claims fell flat due to the difficulty of linking the illnesses to pesticide exposure.
Last year, a group of farmers suffering illnesses set up an association to make a case that their health problems could and should be linked to their use of pesticides. The Francois claim has had the most success, which is most likely due to the fact that he remembers a specific incident in which he inhaled the pesticide – while cleaning the tank of a crop sprayer. Other farmers have put forth different claims, noting accumulated effects over time with extended use of products.
France is currently working toward a goal of 50% less pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, and the country’s health and environment safety agency is conducting a study on farmers’ health. While there’s not enough evidence to bring pesticide use to a halt or make any drastic claims, it’s nice to see that the right steps are being taken in an effort to decrease usage significantly.