TESTIMONY. His cancer recognized as an occupational disease, this former arborist fights for the cessation of pesticides

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After years of fighting, Bernard Guignes was granted occupational disease recognition for his prostate cancer. The former arborist from Montesquieu, in the Tarn-et-Garonne, is now campaigning for the cessation of pesticides.

Bernard Guignes is a former farmer who has come a long way. In August 2022, his prostate cancer was officially recognized as an occupational disease, directly related to prolonged exposure to pesticides. For 28 years, the Montesquieu arborist has been using folpel, mancozebe, thirame, decis or the too famous Round’Up to optimize his yields of apples, plums, cherries, peaches, Chasselas and other kiwis.

Bernard Guignes has only followed the technical-cultural itineraries to the letter, these instructions for professionals that explain how to fight diseases thanks to fungicides.

Approved products

“Every day of the year, I was on my tractor weeding, tending, and three-quarters of the time I was in contact with pesticides. When I turned 50, I was faced with urinary problems, and at the end of 2018 I was diagnosed with very bad prostate cancer. My wife and I had a blow to the head. I had surgery in 2019. Unlike some of my colleagues who think their disease is fatal, I tried to understand. And I understood that my professional practices were responsible. for my illness”, explains the man who then approached the collective of pesticide victims in the West.

Thanks to these “people capable of [l]’Listen’, he filed an application for recognition of an occupational disease. After his career as an employee of a Moissaga facility that sells plant protection and biological products, Bernard Guignes returns to Classic Health Insurance. He then suffered denial after denial, prostate cancer not appearing in the table of occupational diseases, to know the decision of the pesticide victims’ compensation fund, but his battle is far from over.

“The products that I used and that many other farmers use today should be approved. Instead companies like Bayer, Monsanto, Synngenta and many others approve only active molecules. They make their own dossiers, which are defended by lobbyist firms: it’s a pure scandal. And the farmers, who are the real victims, trust the marketing authorizations…”

Permeable protectors

However, don’t all these pros work with guards? “It’s just a way to get rid of it. We all know that overalls and plastic gloves at 30°C are unbearable and that sometimes we have to get out of the tractor for one reason or another. So underneath, we sweat a lot and we’re not dressed very much. The sensors showed that there were more molecules on the skin than on the protectors. So it’s ineffective and very serious”.

Today Bernard Guignes tries to alert public opinion through film-debates organized around the film “Toxic Secrets”, proposed by a coalition of associations of the same name and by the collective of pesticide victims in the West which brings together 460 members. One of these evenings took place on April 21, 2023 in Moissac, one of the attendance records.

“Today We Know”

Even if his cancer seems to have stabilized, Bernard Guignes suffers from irreversible sequelae even in his own intimacy. He comes to wonder if his nephew’s malformations aren’t his fault. And despite his decline, he’s still angry at the Mutualité Social Agricole (MSA). “With my ex-wife, we paid them 35,000 euros in social security contributions a year, they were supposed to defend us and inform us of the risks, in addition to those related to colorectal cancer”.

What shocks him most is to see that some products banned in the past, such as S-metolachlor, could be reintroduced. And neonicotinoids have already been subject to several exemptions.

“In agriculture, it is the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions” (FNSEA) that drives policy at a very high level. And reviewing ANSES (National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety) is a scandal. I am also thinking of chlordecone, endocrine disruptors, the multiplication of cases of endometriosis, tumors, autistic children, etc. Unlike the 90s, we know today. So we can do nothing and hide in denial. These people are system-trained, convinced that the population must be fed at all costs”.

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