Winegrower killed by pesticide, says government Henry Samuel, Paris
January 23, 2011
A FRENCH winegrower, who died after contracting leukaemia and became the first farmer to have his illness officially linked to pesticides used on his crops, has given a warning to the industry from beyond the grave.
Yannick Chenet, 43, grew grapes and other crops for decades at his farm in Ruffec, in the Poitou-Charentes region of south-western France. He is among about 40 French farmers whose illnesses have been officially linked by the French agricultural public health body to their work and the pesticides they sprayed on the land.
Speaking shortly before his death, for a documentary that has just been screened, Mr Chenet said: ”When I got to the hospital I saw the same company whose name was on the pillbox [as the one that made the farming products]. I said, ‘It can’t be true; the same group that poisoned me is now treating me.’ ”
While no specific product has been singled out by the French agricultural public health body, it suspects benzene, a chemical frequently used as a solvent or thinner by farmers, played a part in Mr Chenet contracting cancer. Other farmers have had Parkinson’s disease and cancers recognised as being linked to the products. A victims’ association is being set up. More than a quarter of the estimated 220,000 tonnes of pesticide used in Europe per year is sprayed onto French soil and a fifth of that goes onto French vineyards although they account for only 5 per cent of the country’s total crop surface.
IUPP, the French group that represents 19 companies who market crop protection products in France, said that pesticides on the market were ”systematically the subject of tests”.