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Farmers who are “victims of pesticides” call for EU action

The first-ever film screening in Brussels of ’Death is in the Fields’ took place on Thursday, 27 March 2014 in the European Parliament. The film was followed by a short discussion and reception. Media briefing with testimonies available here. Contact for interviews and/or photos.

Photos from the event available here

Jacky Ferrand, Board Member of Phytovictims appeared in The Parliament Magazine after the event available here

Below HEAL’s press release on the day of the film screening:

Brussels, 27 March 2014 – Farmers of the French Phytovictims network call for urgent action on exposure to hazardous chemicals, especially on pesticides that can disrupt the human hormone system. Phytovictims brings together cereal farmers, vine growers and others whose health has been affected by pesticides.

They will speak in the European Parliament after a screening of ‘La mort est dans le pré’ (1) (Death is in the meadows) in which all three of them appear. The film gives French farmers’ perspectives on how pesticides are affecting individual and family health. It follows agricultural workers, vine growers and other individuals who have developed leukaemia, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological and respiratory problems as a result of pesticide use.

The film and debate programme is organised on the occasion of the 9th edition of Pesticide Action Week (2) by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Générations Futures, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN), and hosted by Hiltrud Breyer MEP.

Genon Jensen, Executive Director of HEAL says: “No-one can fail to be deeply moved by the sad but courageous stories from these farming families. Many research studies indicate that exposure to pesticides are likely to be a contributor to pushing up rates of cancer and neurological problems among adults and children alike. We join our voices to those of the victims, calling on the EU policy makers to get the delayed criteria on endocrine disrupting chemicals finished swiftly, but also to get the criteria right. All endocrine disrupting pesticides must be phased out so that farmers and everyone else are protected.”

Cereal farmer Paul Francois has faced recurrent comas following pesticide intoxication. He has since successfully sued US biotech giant Monsanto and is President of the powerful association of French victims of pesticides called ‘Phyto-Victimes’ (3), or victims of pesticides, which he helped to found in 2011. He and two other board members are in Brussels to tell their stories. Caroline Chenet-Lis, Vice President, who lost her husband to leukaemia; and, Jacky Ferrand, whose son died from bladder cancer, a condition his doctor said was associated with exposure pesticides used on vines. (4)

Paul Francois says a key aim of the association is to support greater protection from pesticide exposure to those who are highly exposed. “We are here in Brussels to show the harm caused by heavy exposure to pesticides and to call for a quick and definitive withdrawal of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors.” (5)

The European Union has introduced legislation to remove endocrine-disrupting chemicals from the market but this cannot be implemented until criteria to identify these substances have been published. The European Commission was mandated to produce these criteria in December 2013 but has failed to do so. The call from L’association Phyto-victimes follows those of HEAL and Generations Futures, which are part of the EDC-Free Europe coalition bringing together 50 major public interest groups throughout Europe. (6) National calls to the European Commission have also been made from France (7) and Sweden (8).

François Veillerette, president of France’s successful anti-pesticide group, Générations Futures, has been a strong supporter of the Phyto-victims network from the start. “Pesticides are not harmless products - as agricultural and other workers know to their cost. Pesticides Action Week is an opportunity for people who have become ill due to pesticide exposure to add their voice to calls to the EU to act urgently on endocrine disruptors as well as neurotoxins and possible carcinogens.”


1. The film, La Mort est dans le pré – Death is in the meadow – Der Tod aus den Wiesen, directed by Eric Guéret, is in French but will be shown with English and German subtitles at European Parliament, A5E2, Thursday, 27 March 2014. Introduction at 17:30, film starts at 18:00, followed by a short debate and reception

2. Pesticide Action Week 2014, Dossier de presse,

3. The farmers are members of the Phyto-Victimes network:

4. More information in “Serious health conditions caused by pesticides in France, Media briefing” available here

5. Phyto- Victims in the European Parliament, March 28, 2013 by contactphyto | Category: Uncategorized,

6. EDC-Free Europe, campaign action in Brussels in November 2013 representing 50 partners from across Europe, see

7. French Parliamentary committee calls for EU EDC criteria, Chemical Watch, 14 March 2014.

8. In February 2014, Sweden threatened to sue the European Commission over a delay in identifying harmful chemicals in everyday products. Sweden to sue the Commission for delaying hormone-affecting criteria , Euractiv.


Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), E-mail:, Mobile: + 32 495 808732.

François Veillerette, spokesperson, Générations Futures, 06 81 64 65 58

For interviews with farmers (in French) - Diana Smith, HEAL Communications and Media Adviser, Email:, Mobile: +33 6 33 04 2943

Last updated on 11 April 2014

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