GM soya: two ex-directors of a former Monsanto affiliate sentenced to [Euro]30,000 fine by court in Carcassone
Associated Press, 13 December 2006
Published by Nouvel Observateur online (France):
[English translation by Michael O'Callaghan of GM-free Ireland]
The high court of Carcassone (Aude) sentenced two ex-directors of the American seed company Monsanto's former subsidiary Asgrow, Jean-Bernard Bonastre et Serge Reymond, to pay fines of [Euro]15,000 each on Wednesday afternoon According to Michel Dupont, trade union organiser in charge of GMOs with the farm organisation Confederation Paysanne, the defendants were found guilty on four counts of (a) having placed a genetically modified organism on the market without authorisation, (b) sale and storage of a falsified, corrupt or toxic agricultural product, (c ) fraudulent advertising, and (e) deception on the nature and quality of merchandise in 1999 and 2000.
In April 2006, the General Directorate for Fair Trading, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) discovered low level but illegal traces of GMOs in soya during a routine inspection of the Groupe Cooperative Occitan (Tarn),
The farmers organisation was a plaintiff along with UFC-Que Choisir [a consumer group], France Nature Environnement [a non-governmental organisation], and the DGCCRF.
Commenting on Wednesday's verdict, Michel Dupont said "The fine is certainly less than the [Euro] 30,000 which was requested against each of the two former directors on 20 September. But we are very satisfied at this first guilty verdict for Monsanto before the courts. Moreover, it is very significant that the court recognised all of the four legal breaches."
The Confederation Paysanne intends to make full use of this ruling. "We will ask the French Government to act with greater transparency and communicate the results of follow-up tests on foreign seed imports. This has not been done in 2006. The biovigilance committee has not yet held a meeting", it said.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Monsanto "takes note of and regrets" the Carcassone court ruling. "The company has always made it a priority to maintain a relationship of absolute trust with French farmers. Monsanto's faith in its quality assurance remains firm" said the seed company, which indicated is it currently considering the option to appeal the ruling.
Background information (not included in the above article):
The illegal GM soya was imported from the USA. The lawsuit was initiated, at the request of a number of contaminated farmers, by the Confederation Paysanne, which was later joined by France Nature Environnement and UFC-Que Choisir. No individual farmers appear to have been directly involved as plaintiffs.
This was the first law case of its kind in France. The court found the Monsanto affiliate's former directors guilty, but not the company itself, because no laws foresaw the responsibility of "moral persons" for such acts at the time they were commited. According to France Nature Environnement, the judge was obliged to make the ruling in the absence of definitive European or national laws concerning seed purety.
The Prosecutor requested fines of [Euro] 30,0000. The maximum fine which could have been applied according to various legal texts ranged from [Euro] 75,000 to [Euro] 100,000 (i.e. combined total of fines for breach of separate laws: [Euro] 75,000 for placing on the market, [Euro] 5,000 for fraudulent advertising, etc.).
Furthermore, the defendants were ordered to pay costs and damages of [Euro] 8,000 to France Nature Environnement, [Euro] 4,000 to the Confédération Paysanne, and [Euro] 4,000 to the consumers organisation UFC Que Choisir.
According to a Greenpeace poll published in the newspaper Le Parisien on 15 September, 66% of French people are worried by the idea of eating food involving GMOs in any stage of its production process. 58% support a total moratorium on GM food and farming until their health and environmental risks can be evaluated. 28% would like a total ban on GM farming and GM food. Only 11% believe GM food and farming are no more risky than their [conventional counterparts].
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