Winegrower issues toxin warning from beyond grave
Published 22/01/2011 | 05:00
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 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 which has just been screened, Mr Chenet said: "When I got to the hospital I saw the same company whose name was on the pill box (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'."
Paul Francois (47) a farmer and close friend of Mr Chenet, also suffers from severe health problems recognised as being linked to the products he used.
His illness continues to affect his kidneys and nervous system and he has fallen into several comas.
Mr Francois said much of the responsibility lies with the farmers. More needed to speak out and more had to opt for the use of safer pesticides or adopt practical ways of using fewer pesticides without losing profitability.
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 blood cancer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)