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Monsanto Found Guilty of Poisoning French Farmer Paul Francois with Lasso Herbicide

A French court has found U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto guilty of the chemical poisoning of a farmer who inhaled an herbicide produced by the company.

The Guardian reports that grain grower Paul Francois, age 47, suffers from neurological problems, including memory loss, headaches, and stammering as a result of inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

Francois blames Monsanto for failing to provide adequate warning on Lasso labels.

This is the first case of its kind heard by a French court, and the ruling could lead to other health claims against pesticide and herbicide manufacturers.

The ruling, which was delivered in a court in Lyon, now calls for an expert opinion to determine the amount of damages Francois will receive.

“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,” Francois Lafforgue, Francois’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Indeed, previous health claims have not resulted in favorable judgments for farmers because of the difficulty of decisively linking illnesses with exposure to agricultural chemicals. Up until now, only 47 cases in the past decade have been recognized as being caused by such chemicals.

Francois’ case dates back to a period when crop-protection chemicals were widely utilized in the European Union. The E.U. has since banned many herbicides and pesticides; Lasso was outlawed in 2007.

France, which is the E.U.’s largest agricultural producer, is aiming for a 50% reduction in pesticide use by the year 2018.

The French social security farming branch is set to add Parkinson’s disease to the list of illnesses caused by pesticide use. Certain types of blood cancers, bladder problems and respiratory illnesses have also been placed on that list.

Monsanto expressed its disappointment in the French court’s ruling in the Francois case.

“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, is quoted in The Guardian.

The company will now decide whether or not to appeal the ruling.

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