A woman who claims vineyard pesticides ruined her health and prevented her from working again has taken her employer and the French health system to Court.
After allegedly being exposed four years ago to a pesticide called Clameur, made by BASF, applied to vines at Domaine Monestier La Tour in Bergerac, Sylvie Sorneau could not walk and suffered diarrhoea, dizziness and vomiting, it was reported in last Sunday’s Journal du Dimanche.
Not enough time had passed between the pesticide treatment and her work in the vines, her lawyer Stéphane Cottineau told Decanter.com. To this day, ‘extreme fatigue’ resulting from contact with the pesticides, prevents her from taking a normal job.
Sorneau took her case to the French health authorities, who recently awarded her €107 per month in compensation. This sum was ‘far too small’, Cottineau told Decanter.com.
Cottineau called on the public prosecutor to investigate, but he was not allowed to see the results of the investigation, he said, until the pressure of publicity resulted in their ‘finally’ opening the dossier. ‘I will receive it in two weeks,’ he added.
Domaine Monestier La Tour confirmed the report in Journal du Dimanche but ‘strongly condemned’ its ‘defamatory tone,’ it said in a press release.
Although it is possible that Sorneau’s condition was caused by the pesticides used at the estate, the pesticides in question were applied ‘well over’ the minimum time allowed for people to return for work in the vines, according to the domain.
Sorneau mayhave been affected by wind-carried pesticides used by neighbouring estates, the domain’s assistant director JuliaDitsch told Decanter.com. But Cottineau called thisexplanation ‘exaggerated, to say the least, especially since the French healthauthorities established a link between my client’s condition and her place ofwork.’
Cottineau, an attorney who specialises in environmental cases, said that France suffers from ‘a law of silence’ when it comes to pesticide-borne illnesses. ‘I have been consulted by wives of vintners who fell ill because of pesticides, but prefer not to go to public because it would bring too much scrutiny on the system,’ he said.
The world’s leading consumers of pesticides are the United States and India, according to GoodPlanet.info, an environmental NGO.
France is the third largest consumer, and the main European consumer before Germany.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos