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France

Monsanto ruling spurs French Greens to file for glyphosate ban

media Glyphosate is used in a mustard plant field in Ouzouer-sous-Bellegarde, central France on November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

France's Green Party, Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV), announced Saturday its plan to file a court action against glyphosate in a renewed bid to ban Monsanto’s weedkiller in France.

In a statement, the party said it will file a court action on Monday to request an interim ban on glyphosate-based herbicides produced by the US chemical giant Monsanto. The chemical is currently authorised in France.

“EELV finds it urgent to take legal action to contest the authorised sale of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based products,” the statement read. The party said the proposed ban would apply to consumers, not the agricultural sector.

The announcement came about a week after a landmark US court ruling found Monsanto was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer. The company has been ordered to pay more than 250 million euros in damages for failing to warn the man, Californian groundskeeper Dwayne Johnson, of the potential health hazards posed by its signature weedkiller Roundup.

EELV may bolster its legal case with internal Monsanto documents brought forward by Johnson’s attorneys during the trial. Records of company emails suggested Monsanto had neglected scientists’ warnings regarding the product’s toxicity, and ghostwritten research later attributed to academics.

Party spokesperson Julien Bayou told Reuters that the “internal documents show the company knew Roundup was carcinogenic and sought to cover it up”.

“This information provides new evidence that must be presented to the courts,” he said.

Monsanto, acquired by German pharma giant Bayer for more than 62 billion euros in June, has insisted Roundup is “safe” and denied any links between its products and ill health effects. It has vowed to appeal the US court ruling.

French uncertainty

French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot has called the verdict “the beginning of a war”. The government has said that banning glyphosate within the next three years is one of its “clear engagements”.

But for the time being, glyphosate continues to be widely used in France, particularly in the agricultural sector. According to the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), the country uses an average of 9,100 tonnes of glyphosate every year.

The chemical is also widespread throughout Europe. Just last year, the EU reapproved its use for another five years.

Editor's Note 21/08/18: This article was updated to include that EELV's proposed glyphosate ban would apply to consumers, not the agricultural sector.

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