(Changes headline, first paragraph to show Monsanto liable, not
"guilty", in the civil court ruling)
LYON/PARIS, France, Sept 10 A French court
upheld on Thursday a 2012 ruling in which Monsanto was
found to be liable in the chemical poisoning of a French farmer,
who says he suffered neurological problems after inhaling the
U.S. company's Lasso weedkiller.
The decision by an appeal court in Lyon, southeast France,
confirmed the initial judgment, the first such case heard in
court in France, that ruled Monsanto was "responsible" for the
intoxication and ordered the company to "fully compensate" grain
grower Paul Francois.
Monsanto's lawyer said the U.S. biotech company would now
take the case to France's highest appeal court.
Francois, who says he suffered memory loss, headaches and
stammering after inhaling Monsanto's Lasso in 2004, blames the
agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the
Lasso, a pre-emergent soil-applied herbicide that has been
used since the 1960s to control grasses and broadleaf weeds in
farm fields, was banned in France in 2007 after the product had
already been withdrawn in other countries such as Canada,
Belgium and Britain.
Monsanto phased out of Lasso in the United States several
years ago for commercial reasons, its spokesman in France said.
Though it once was a top-selling herbicide, it gradually
lost popularity, and critics say several studies have shown
links to a range of health problems.
Monsanto said in a statement after the ruling that experts,
including those nominated by the French civil court, had not
found any causal link between the alleged accidental exposure
and the alleged damages for which Francois claims compensation.
The company's lawyer, Jean-Daniel Bretzner, said a potential
fine to compensate for the farmer's loss would be decided after
the decision of the highest court but he said that in any case
it would be very low.
"We are speaking about modest sums of money or even
nonexistent. He already received indemnities (by insurers) and
there is a fundamental rule that says that one does not
compensate twice for a loss, if any," Jean-Daniel Bretzner said.
Lasso is not Monsanto's sole herbicide accused of being
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part
of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in March that
glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, one of the
world's most used herbicides, was "probably carcinogenic to
Monsanto reacted to the finding in June by demanding a
retraction, labeling the findings by a team of international
cancer scientists as "junk science."
(Reporting by Catherine Lagrange and Sybille de La Hamaide,
editing by Gus Trompiz and Susan Fenton)