Monsanto has been the topic of a lot of news lately, especially with the multi-country march that took place against Monsanto a short time ago. What can be seen as another big victory for public health, a French court found Monsanto guilty for poisoning a French Farmer. Paul Francois is a humble farmer who began experiencing neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches after being exposed to Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller back in 2004. The decision reached 2012 for this case sets a powerful precedent that can continue to help raise awareness and dismantel the ignorance that exists around Monsanto and their products, including GMO foods.
In previous cases against the pesticide giant, farmers were unable to prove and properly link pesticide exposure to the side effects they were having. This is not the case for Francois’s, as an expert opinion was able to determine the sum of the damages incurred and verify the link the Lasso pesticide and his illnesses.
After the case ruling, Monsanto’s lawyers were contacted but they decline to comment.
Not The First Case
Although Francois’s story is one of few positive endings, his is not the only case where people have attempted to hold Monsanto accountable for their dangerous actions. In 2011, he and other farmers formed an association to help raise awareness and go after Monsanto for the negative effects their products have on farmers. Awareness of the association grew and their claims were met by other farmers who were experiencing similar illnesses. Since 1996, the agricultural branch of the French social security system has gathered about 200 alerts per year regarding sickness related to pesticides. It is unfortunate to say that only 47 cases were even recognized in the past 10 years.
Francois, whose life was damaged by Monsanto’s products, has been successful in his quest to hold Monsanto accountable and has now set a powerful precedent for other farmers looking to do the same.
I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this,” Francois, 47, told Reuters.
In 2007 France banned the Lasso pesticide following a European Union directive that came after the ban of the product in other nations. Another push for other countries to do the same.
One of Monsanto’s main reasons for creating the products they do is to ensure and good quality of life for people. We can observe that their pesticides are not only harming people but the practice of farming that requires pesticides is not only harmful to the earth but produces less nutritious and less bountiful crops. The argument that we need to produce more food is absurd given that alternative farming practices could be done. Monsanto is a completely unnecessary business.
A Return To Less Intensive Methods
The Francois case goes back to a period of intensive use of crop-protection chemicals in the European Union. The EU and its member countries have since banned a large number of substances considered dangerous.
Lasso, a pre-emergent soil-applied herbicide that has been used since the 1960s to control grasses and broadleaf weeds in farm fields, was banned in France in 2007 following an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries.
Though it once was a top-selling herbicide, it has gradually lost popularity, and critics say several studies have shown links to a range of health problems.
Monsanto’s Roundup is now the dominant herbicide used to kill weeds. The company markets it in conjunction with its biotech herbicide-tolerant “Roundup Ready” crops. The Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops do not die when sprayed directly with the herbicide, a trait that has made them wildly popular with U.S. farmers.
But farmers are now being encouraged to use more and different kinds of chemicals again as Roundup loses its effectiveness to a rise of “super weeds” that are resistant to Roundup.
And while the risks of pesticide are a generally known and accepted hazard of farming in most places, and farmers are cautioned to take care when handling the chemicals, increased use of pesticides will only cause more harm to human health and the environment, critic say.
“The registration process does not protect against harm. Manufacturers have to be held liable for adverse impacts that occur,” said Jay Feldman, director of Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit group focused on reducing pesticide use.
France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is now targeting 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 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.
The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, says pesticides are all subject to testing and that any evidence of a cancer risk in humans leads to withdrawal of products from the market.
“I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, UIPP’s managing director, said.
The social security’s farming branch this year is due to add Parkinson’s disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use after already recognizing some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.
France’s health and environment safety agency (ANSES), meanwhile, is conducting a study on farmers’ health, with results expected next year.
Writing by Joe Martino, Gus Trompiz, Catherine Lagrange and Marion Douet
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