A French court on Monday declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.
In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois, 47, says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.
He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.
The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois’s losses to establish the amount of damages.
“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.
Monsanto said it was disappointed by the ruling and would examine whether to appeal the judgment.
“Monsanto always considered that there were not sufficient elements to establish a causal relationship between Paul Francois’s symptoms and a potential poisoning,” the company’s lawyer, Jean-Philippe Delsart, said.
Previous health claims from farmers have foundered because of the difficulty of establishing clear links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides.
Francois and other farmers suffering from illness set up an association last year to make a case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.
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 about 47 cases have been recognised as due to pesticides in the past 10 years. Francois, who suffers from neurological problems, obtained work invalidity status only after a court appeal.
Read more from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/13/france-pesticides-monsanto-idUSL5E8DD5UG20120213