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

Home TESTIMONY. His cancer recognized as an occupational disease, this former arborist campaigns for the cessation of pesticides
Written by Doug Hampton

the essential
After years of fighting, Bernard Guignes obtained recognition as an occupational disease for his prostate cancer. The former arborist from Montesquieu, in 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 one who was an arborist in Montesquieu used 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 was only following the technical cultural itineraries to the letter, these instructions for professionals which explain how to counter diseases thanks to fungicides.

Approved products

“Every day of the year, I was on my tractor weeding, treating and three quarters of the time I was in contact with pesticides. When I turned 50, I was confronted with urinary problems and at the end of 2018, I was diagnosed with quite nasty prostate cancer. With my wife, we took a blow to the head. I had surgery in 2019. Unlike some of my colleagues who think that their disease is a fatality , 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 a file for recognition of occupational disease. Having finished his career as an employee of a Moissaga structure that sells phytosanitary and biological products, Bernard Guignes comes under the Classic Health Insurance. He then suffered refusal after refusal, prostate cancer not appearing in the table of occupational diseases. to know the decision of the compensation fund for the victims of pesticides, but his fight is far from over.

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

Permeable protections

However, do not all these professionals work with protections? “It’s just a way to get rid of it. We all know that plastic coveralls and gloves at 30°C are unbearable and that we sometimes have to get out of the tractor for one reason or another. So underneath, we sweat a lot and we are lightly dressed. sensors, they showed that there were more molecules on the skin than on the protections. It is therefore 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 which bears the same name and the collective of victims of pesticides 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 the malformations of his grandson are not his fault. And despite the decline, he is still angry with the Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA). “With my ex-wife, we paid them €35,000 in social security contributions per year, they should have defended us and made us aware of the risks, other than those linked to colorectal cancer.”

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

“In agriculture, it is the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions” (FNSEA) which leads policy at a very high level. And going over the 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, cancers, autistic children, etc. Unlike the 90s, today we know. So we can’t do nothing and hide in denial. These people are formatted in a system, convinced that the population must be fed at all costs.”

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