Since 2013, environmental activists and other protesters have organised the annual March Against Monsanto in cities in France and across the world, demanding an agriculture free of pesticides and toxic agrochemicals.
The “bee rebellion against Bayer-Monsanto”, as signs read, took to the streets of Hamburg and Basel (Germany), Porto (Portugal), Toronto (Canada), Austin (Texas), San Diego (California), Santiago (Chile), Perth (Australia) and in some 30 cities in France on Saturday, urging governments for a greener and healthier agriculture.
In France, over 600 protesters gathered in Paris, with some “yellow vest” protesters joining the march, which started at Place de la République with Greenpeace, anti-globalization and Green-party activists. In Bordeaux, around 450 “yellow vests” joined 1,000 people in a peaceful demonstration, according to French authorities, and nearly 600 people marched in Lyon.
Judiciary losses and lawsuits in France
The protests seem to have gained momentum lately as Monsanto faces a wave of lawsuits worldwide over its glyphosate-based weedkillers and pesticides, which have been widely used for years.
It has also emerged that Monsanto kept a list with the names of French politicians, journalists, scientists and activists with their views on pesticides and GM crops.
German agro-chemicals and drugs giant Bayer “apologized for what has come to light in France”, Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs, told journalists in a conference call on Sunday, May 12. He also admitted that « it’s very likely that such lists also exist in other European countries ».
The list dates back to 2016, two years before Bayer bought Monsanto for over €56 million. French authorities have opened a preliminary inquiry.
In April, the chemicals giant lost a third-round appeal in France over the poisoning of Paul François, a farmer who suffered neurological damaged after inhaling fumes from the now-banned weedkiller Lasso in 2004. In 2012, a first ruling of the farmer’s case marked the first time Monsanto was found guilty.
In January, France also banned Roundup weedkiller.
Over 13,400 plaintiffs in US
As for the United States, the group lost its third lawsuit over the harmful effects of Roundup on Monday. A jury found the pesticide to be carcinogenic, awarding almost €2 billion to a couple who used the chemical on their property, making it the largest glyphosate litigation to date.
By owning Monsanto, Bayer faces lawsuits from over 13,400 plaintiffs in the US.
Monsanto denies that Roundup causes cancer and has challenged findings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), which classified glyphosate as a « probable carcinogen » in 2015.
Environment at heart of EU Parliament elections?
Around a hundred local and international NGO’s organised the Parisian march against Bayer-Monsanto on Saturday, including Greenpeace, Good Planet Foundation and Climate Action Network, as protestors walked with signs reading “No to Monsanto, yes to my health” in a cheerful demonstration that went from Place de la République to Stalingrad.
Many Green-party activists took part in the demonstration, which happened one week before the May 26 European Parliament elections, and they intend to make environmental concerns a key issue in the parliamentary election campaigns.
“With all the technology innovations on the field of agriculture, we can now take pesticides away from our farms and also save the EU from the grip of the lobbies,” Green-party leader and candidate Yannick Jadot told FRANCE 24.
NGOs seem rather somewhat sceptical on the politician’s speech. “We’ve been hearing a lot about environment during this EU parliament campaign, but there is no time for promises any more, we want action,” Anastasia Magat told FRANCE 24. As a member of the Monsanto Combat group, she has demanded synthetic pesticides be pulled back, lobbying regulated and victims compensated.
“What we are denouncing is the commodification of living species, the ecological genocide by agrochemicals and shady lobbying policies. Victims must be compensated, we demand a new kind of agriculture,” she said.