Monsanto to appeal pesticide poisoning verdict

Monsanto is to appeal a French court ruling that found it responsible for the poisoning of a farmer who inhaled a pesticide made by the company.

A court in Lyon ruled on Monday (13 February) that Monsanto was guilty of poisoning grain grower Paul François, 47, who suffered from memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling the Lasso weed killer in 2004.

The farmer accused the company of not providing adequate safety warnings on the product label and of failing to pull Lasso from the French market until 2007 – despite earlier bans in Britain, Belgium and Canada.

Mr François said his health problems were caused by inhalation of Lasso while cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer.

He blamed Monsanto for not specifying on the label the presence of chlorobenzene, a chemical substance later detected in the farmer’s hair and urine.

The ailments rendered Mr François unable to work for a year and the court ordered an expert opinion of his losses to establish the amount of damages.

Monsanto had argued that its herbicide was considered safe by France for 40 years and that it was successfully used by maize farmers on millions of acres across the globe.

In addition, the US biotech firm said there was not enough evidence to establish a causal link between Mr François’s symptoms and a potential poisoning.

“Lasso herbicide was approved in France for 40 years to control weeds in maize,” Mark Buckingham, Monsanto’s UK spokesman, said.

“It was successfully used by farmers on millions of hectares around the world.

“Monsanto products comply with safety standards in place at the time of marketing and are supported by guidance for their responsible and safe use.

“Lasso was clearly labelled to contain monochlorobenzene, a common solvent, as required by the regulations. Monsanto would not have used monochlorobenzene as a solvent in Lasso if it had not met all regulatory requirements.”

Mr Buckingham added: “Our analysis of this case is that there is no demonstration of the causal link between Lasso and the symptoms reported by Mr François.

“We do not agree any injury was accidentally caused nor did the company intentionally permit injury. We are disappointed with court’s findings and are planning to appeal.”

Monsanto’s appeal in the French court case will take up to a year to be heard.

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