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French Court rules Monsanto Liable

French Court Rules Monsanto Liable for Farmer’s Health Problems

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French farmer Paul Francois outside a courthouse before a 2015 appeal of his case against Monsanto. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP / Getty Images

A French appeals court ruled Thursday in favor of a farmer who has been in a decade-long fight with Monsanto since he fell ill after inhaling a now-banned weedkiller.

Paul Francois, 55, said he suffered neurological damage after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso in 2004. He sued the company arguing that the labeling on the product had been inadequate. Courts ruled in his favor in 2012 and 2015, but France’s top court overturned those rulings and ordered a new hearing.

“We are all happy to have won but it came at a heavy price,” Francois told reporters, according to Reuters. “It’s a big sigh of relief. It’s been 12 years of fighting, 12 years during which I had to put my whole life on hold.”

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, told BBC News it was considering options including an appeal.

“We are currently reviewing the decision of the court,” a company spokesperson said.

Thursday’s decision follows a series of legal setbacks for the company since it acquired Monsanto. Two juries in the U.S. have now ruled in favor of plaintiffs claiming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the company’s Roundup weedkiller, caused them to develop cancer. There are more than 10,000 similar lawsuits pending.

Bayer’s chief executive said the company was “massively affected” by the lawsuits, Reuters reported, which are partly responsible for the loss of 30 billion euros (approximately $33.9 billion) of its market value since August 2018.

Lasso has a different active ingredient, monochlorobenzene, that was found in Francois’ body after he inhaled the weedkiller. Francois said he suffered memory loss, headaches and difficulty speaking that forced him to stop working, BBC News reported.

Lasso was banned in France in 2007 and had been prohibited in Canada as early as 1985 and in Belgium and the UK in 1992AFP reported. Francois is asking for 1 million euros (approximately $1.1 million) in damages, arguing that Monsanto was aware of the dangers of the product and should have done more to warn users of potential hazards.

The court in Lyon, France agreed, saying the label should have included “a notice on the specific dangers of using the product in vats and reservoirs,” AFP reported.

“The plaintiff’s assumed technical knowledge does not excuse the lack of information on the product and its harmful effects — a farmer is not a chemist,” the court ruled.

Bayer disagreed that Monsanto had done anything wrong.

“Plant protection products are among the products whose evaluation and authorisation are the most strictly regulated in the world,” a Bayer spokeswoman told BBC News. “They are safe when used as directed.”

The court Thursday ordered Monsanto to pay 50,000 euros (approximately $56,570) for Francois’ legal fees but did not rule on the overall compensation. That will be decided in a later ruling, AFP reported.

GM Salmon approved in Canada

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Minister Approves First Commercial GM Fish Factory
Groups raise concerns over transparency and environmental risk

Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Halifax. – The company AquaBounty has announced that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has approved the production of genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) Atlantic salmon at a site in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I). This will be the first factory in Canada to produce GM salmon, which is the world’s first GM food animal.

 “Canada and P.E.I. will now be associated with the controversial and risky production of the world’s first GM fish,” said Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action P.E.I., “But Canadians were never consulted and the product is not even labelled in our grocery stores.”

AquaBounty says it will produce 250 metric tonnes of GM Atlantic salmon each year at the on-land factory it is setting up in the community of Rollo Bay, P.E.I., and that the first harvest will be in late 2020. 

“This decision means more Canadians will be eating GM salmon without knowing,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action NetworkThe GM salmon is sold in Canada but there is no mandatory labelling of GM foods. 

AquaBounty started selling GM salmon in Canada in 2017, produced at its small pilot plant in Panama. Canada had been the only country where GM salmon could be sold until the US government reversed an import ban in March 2019. AquaBounty can now sell GM salmon in the US and ship its GM salmon eggs from P.E.I. to a second commercial-scale factory that the company is setting up in the state of Indiana.  

Although the P.E.I. production site is on land, environmental groups continue to raise concerns because of the serious impacts if any escape into the wild occurs.

“More GM salmon means more risk to wild Atlantic salmon. That is the science,” said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre based in Nova Scotia, “This decision is the first step in a dangerous expansion of GM fish production. We need a national consultation on improving regulation before new GM animals are approved. We need democracy and transparency on this issue.”

The fish is genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout, to grow faster than other farmed salmon.

 “How do we know what we’re eating?” asked Mary Boyd of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice in P.E.I., “Health Canada should never have allowed a GM fish onto the market without labelling for consumers. We urgently need labels.”

 Major retailers and many seafood companies have said they will not sell the GM salmon.

 “Without labelling, retailers, restaurants and food companies should be clear that they are only selling non-GM salmon,” said Sharratt.

 

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For more information: Sharon Labchuk, Earth Action PEI, 902 626 7327; Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 902 209 4906; Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre, 902 266 5401 (entrevue disponible en français); Mary Boyd, MacKillop Centre forSocial Justice, 902 892 9074. https://cban.ca/minister-approves-first-commercial-gm-fish-factory/