Published on February 13th, 2012 | by Jeremy Bloom11
Monsanto Guilty! France convicts big ag firm of chemical poisoning
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.
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.
(Image via PR Watch)