A 12-year-old judicial battle pitting a cereal farmer against Monsanto, the biotech giant, goes to a fourth round Wednesday before the French courts.
Farmer Paul Francois won his initial case in 2012, and its appeal by Monsanto in 2015, after suing the US firm for poisoning him through inhalation of its Lasso weedkiller.
Lasso, which contains high levels of highly toxic monochlorobenzene, has since been banned in France. It was taken off the Canadian market in 1985, and pulled from the Belgian and British markets in 1992.
Now, after a technical review by the final court of appeal, the case gets bounced back to appeal level after a ruling by the higher court that the case should be decided not so much on whether Monsanto provided adequate information about its product, but on whether its chemicals were dangerous, according to Francois Lafforgue, one of the farmer’s lawyers.
‘I am as determined as ever,’ said Francois on the eve of the trial, adding that the recent death of his wife had only added to his motivation to see the case through.
Francois became ill and suffered neurological damage in April 2004 after inhaling Lasso vapours left in a vat.
The farmer, who has found it financially challenging to fund his battle, accused Monsanto of ‘denigrating arguments put forward by scientists working on my behalf’, without ‘attempting to scientifically prove that the opposite is true’.
Monsanto was bought in 2018 by the German chemical giant Bayer which said in a statement that its subsidiary’s products were safe providing they were used in line with instructions.
Francois is demanding ‘more than a million euros’ by way of damages from the US firm.
Monsanto is also being sued in a number of countries in connection with its popular weedkiller Round Up which the World Health Organisation has labelled carcinogenic.