In France, a never-before-seen inquiry has begun regarding the “involuntary homicide” of James-Bernard Murat, a Bordeaux wine grower who died in 2012 of lung cancer that was caused by the toxic pesticides he had been using on his southwestern France vineyards for 40 years. The pesticides he used contain sodium arsenite, which is now considered a carcinogenic poison and has been banned from use.
Although his cancer and subsequent death were previously “linked to his profession,” his daughter Valérie has called on lawyers to open the case and find out who is responsible for his “involuntary homicide, fraud, and failure to offer aid.” Ms. Murat’s lawyers have stated that this case could also open up hundreds of additional cases against the producers of the pesticides and possibly even the French state due to negligence.
Ms. Murat filed the legal complaint back in April in an attempt to break the “law of silence” that so many have toward the many negative health effects of the pesticides being used in French vineyards. In June, legal officials launched the preliminary criminal inquiry.
France is Europe’s heaviest user of pesticides, spraying around 60,000 tons of a range of products on crops every year. A fifth of these are pumped into the country’s vineyards despite the fact that they only account for three per cent of its agricultural surface area.
According to Ms Murat, her father used sodium arsenite for 42 years, from 1958 to 2000, to treat his vines for esca, a disease via parasitic fungi that affects the trunks of mature grapevines, despite the fact that its harmfulness has been “officially recognised since 1955”.
“Until now, the official line has been that my father got cancer because he had wrongly used the products sold to him. The industrial chemical giants are now going to have to take responsibility for their role [in his death],” she told Nouvel Obs.
Her lawyer, François Lafforgue, said: “This is about recognising that the labels on the incriminating products didn’t indicate the serious effects of inhaling them and the need to wear a mask while using them.”
As well as the pesticide producers, he accused the French state of “guilty complacency regarding industrial groups, whose disinformation was systematic”.
In February, a French court found American biotech giant Monsanto guilty of poisoning French grain grower Paul François, who suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling the Lasso weedkiller in 2004.
The difference, said Ms Murat, was that Mr François’ disease was due to “an accident, whereas my father’s death was due to the chronic use of grape pesticides over 40 years.
“Yet he only used these three times a year. The companies have always sworn that chronic inhalation in ‘homoeopathic doses’ posed no danger to human health. The inquiry will determine who was right and who was lying.”
Image credit: telegraph.co.uk
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