Monsanto Guilty! France convicts big ag firm of chemical poisoning

  • Published on February 13th, 2012

We’ve written a lot about how Monsanto is one of the worst companies in the world, and how American farmers have taken them to court to try to block their actions that pollute the environment with chemicals and the food supply with genetically modified (GMO) seeds.

Today we have word from France that the agribusiness giant has been convicted of chemical poisoning, a groundbreaking result that may make it easier for farmers to sue in other cases.

In the past, it’s been difficult to make a direct link between pesticide exposure, which can be cumulative over years, and specific health problems. But in this case, farmer Paul Francois has been able to link his specific neurological problems with a specific incident of exposure to Monsanto’s “Lasso” brand pesticide in 2004. That made the difference. ((See: Monsanto blocks research on GMO safety)

Lasso was taken off the market in 2007.

Francois first established the connection between his occupational illness and Lasso in the French social security courts (TASS), which made it easier for him to then take on Monsanto in a court of law.

Fighting back

Monsanto has had an aggressive and combative history, which has included attacking researchers who found problems with their products and suing farmers who inadvertently planted fields with seeds contaminated with Monsanto genes.

Monsanto has patented a number of genes, and has successfully sued farmers for tens of thousands of dollars when their patents are infringed, even by accident (pollen from GMO crops can blow into non-GMO fields; nature doesn’t recognize patented genes even if US courts do).

Monsanto’s herbicide business has been a huge part of its operation, since one of the patented genes gives seeds immunity to the glyphosphate in its Roundup brand herbicide, meaning farmers can douse a soybean field with the stuff, kill off the weeds and leave their soybeans standing.

But that business model is running into problems as “superweeds” develop their own immunity, and “superbugs” develop that are immune to another Monsanto gene.

This poses a huge problem for US agriculture, as Monsanto seeds already dominate more than 90% of the US soybean, corn and sugar beet markets. (See: Monsanto’s GMO corn is failing.)

Just say NO

Reuters reports that France had been investigating reports of pesticide poisoning since 1996, but has only been able to recognize 47 as being definitively linked.

“I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, the managing director of The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, told Reuters. But that’s a typical dodge – don’t conduct widespread studies, hide behind the fact that with years-long exposures it’s very difficult or impossible to prove direct links, and then say “Problem? What problem? Where’s your proof?”.

But when dealing with cancer-causing and life-threatening chemicals, the onus should be on the corporation to prove them safe, not the victim to prove they were dangerous. (See: The trouble with GMO: Dr. David Suzuki spells it out.)

Indeed, France has been steadily cutting down on pesticide use, with the goal of a 50% reduction between 2008 and 2018.

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(Image via PR Watch)


About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.


  • There is a weed called blackjack, it has a terrible smell, makes small yellow flowers that become little black spikes that clings to your clothes etc. This however makes the best pesticide together with the garlick flower plant. Pick the blackjack when flower buds appear and garlick flower leaves , place in big drum , build a fireplace strong enough to hold the drum , make wooden fire and bring to boil. This spray may take time but in the end worth to use as a spray. De weeding is always a continuous demand , weeds should be pulled out before producing seeds. Crops should not be planted to close to each other either as this makes it difficult to deweed. Grew up on a farm and often invited friends for a weekend to help pulling out weeds, if no seed on them it can go into the compost heap.

  • @John MItchell. Scattering rock salt kills the weeds. Alternatively pour boiling water poured over them.

  • Last night I heard a show on the Progressive Radio Network about environmental tipping points. I had heard of some of them but others just blew my mind, like declining ocean salinity and the shrinking of the Sahara. I thought shrinking deserts would be a good thing but it just shows how everything on the planet is connected. Here’s the link

  • Hi,

    How much Roundup is too much/unsafe. I have been using Roundup/Glyphosphate 360 around my house to kill weeds in the path, garden etc for years. Does this amount of use constitute a problem for me or is it only when used in large quantities to spray fields etc.


    • @John MItchell. It takes six months to a year to break down in the ground, digging in and around that ground with your bare hands can contaminate your hands. I assume you don’t grow any food near where you spray as that would be a major problem. The biggest danger is when you apply the herbicide. Spraying produces microdroplets which you can breath in, lands on your clothes and skin. I would want full protective cover and a respirator if I was doing the spraying. You will need to wash your clothes separately so as not to contaminate the rest of your washing. Don’t spray in wind over 5 knots and hopefully your neighbors don’t have a vegie garden near where you spray. Monsanto regularly changes the makeup of Roundup so you can never believe any safety reports as what you are using is possibly quite different to what is being tested. When testing these chemicals they expose healthy strapping young people who volunteer for this kind of thing, poisoning goes by body weight so none of these tests safeguard children, old people and people with already compromised immune systems.

    • You better not be on well water or breathe the fumes for your own health. It’s time to go back to manual weeding.

      • Oh, you’re right.

        I give up.

        Just pass me a bottle of whatever chemical brew they’ve cooked up in their clandestine labs, and it’s “Bottoms Up”. After all, they’re doing it all in the name of saving humanity, right?

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