Small compensation for French farmer who inhaled weed killer

A French court in Lyon has for the first time ordered the then weed killer Monsanto to pay damages to a French farmer. Farmer Paul François, now 58, had sued the company for falling ill after inhaling fumes from their pesticide. 

On April 27, 2004, the farmer from Charente, in southwest France, was seriously poisoned when he accidentally inhaled the fumes of a pesticide while inspecting the tank of his sprayer, which he thought was empty.

The herbicide Lasso, marketed by the American company, was banned in 2007 because of its carcinogenic properties. That year, Mr. François sued Monsanto. 

Although Monsanto was taken over by the German chemical group Bayer years ago, the French farmer has persevered through his processes in France to the end, and demanded compensation of more than one million euros. Last year, a French judge ruled that Bayer must compensate the man for his permanent symptoms. 

In a follow-up court case, the final amount of the compensation had to be determined. Because Bayer's lawyers argued that most disorders and illnesses cannot be traced back to the inhalation of glyphosate vapors in 2004, the damage amount was set at around 11,135 euros.

Farmer Paul Francois and anti-pesticide groups who support his campaign expressed disappointment with the figure as they try to demonstrate a broader trend of disease caused by agricultural chemicals. “11,000 euros for so much sacrifice,” François said after a French court ordered the award.

Bayer inherited the French legal claim after acquiring US-based Monsanto, including a portfolio of lawsuits related to Roundup, another weed killer. In the United States, lawsuits are pending against claims for damages worth tens of millions. Plaintiffs allege that Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate caused cancer and other diseases.