On April 17th, a documentary about the health impacts of pesticides on farmers, titled La mort est dans le pré, was broadcast on French TV. Although its scheduling suggested that the audience was not seen as important, the show left a deep impression on people, particularly on the French farming sector.
Made by Eric Guéret, the 52 minute documentary shows the stories of several French farmers that have been poisoned by pesticides. Some are deeply sick, some of them are dead. Farmers and their families tell of how some products, still used by thousands of farmers, have ruined their lives. They all had cancer of different forms.
It also shows their fight with insurance companies to recognise their diseases and their fight against the chemical industry lobbies that deny the toxicity of their products.
One of those farmers, Paul François, is the president of Phytovictimes, an association created in 2011 to defend the rights and the recognition of the victims of pesticides in France. Paul François himself was poisoned in 2004 by Lasso, a weedkiller from the biotech giant Monsanto. He’s now suffering neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering.
On February 2012, the French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of Mr François. It was the first such case which has led to other health claims being made against pesticides. Monsanto appealed.
This association, supported by some other French NGOs, ran a campaign group during the French 2012 Green Week. You can read more about this here.