ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Monsanto jugé responsable pour la première fois en France
Translated Tuesday 14 February 2012, by Henry Crapoand reviewed by
On 13 February 2012, for the first time in France, American pesticide giant Monsanto was held responsible for the poisoning of a farmer from the Charente region.
The Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) in Lyon returned its verdict: "Monsanto is responsible for the injury caused to Paul Francois after his inhalation of the product Lasso". The court further "condemns Monsanto to fully indemnify Pierre Francois for his loss" and asks for a medical expertise to be established by the Rothschild Hospital in Paris.
On 27 April 2004, Paul Francis, a cereal farmer from Bernac in the Charentes, who is now 47 years old and disabled, was hit in the face whilst opening a sprayer tank by Lasso fumes, the powerful herbicide produced by the world’s leading agrochemical company. He was quickly overcome by nausea and other disorders (stuttering, dizziness, headache, muscle-ache...) forcing him to give up work for almost a year. In May 2005, one year after inhaling the fumes, tests showed traces of monochlorobenzene in his organism, the solvent which makes up half the volume of Lasso, the other half being its active ingredient, anachlore. Three years later the man who has become the spokesman for pesticide victims won the legal battle of having his disorders recognized by the Mutualité sociale agricole as an occupational disease. He subsequently began civil proceedings for damages against Monsanto.
On 12 December 2011, at the hearing held before the Fourth Civil Chamber of the TGI Lyon, his lawyer Francis Lafforgue accused Monsanto of having "done everything possible to keep Lasso on the market" even though its toxicity had been established in the 1980s, with a subsequent ban in Canada, the UK and Belgium. It was not until 2007 that it was withdrawn from the French market. According to Lafforgue, Monsanto had also breached its "duty to inform" not only by failing to label the composition of the product, but also by failing to warn of the risks associated with inhalation, or the necessity of wearing a mask.
Monsanto’s lawyer, Jean-Philippe Delsart, casts doubt upon the reality of intoxication, by noting that health problems only appeared several months later.