Last month, French cereal farmer Paul François, 47, won a lengthy legal battle against US biotech giant Monsanto in a landmark ruling by a court in Lyon that could open a floodgate of complaints by farmers for chemical poisoning. François was found to have become severely handicapped as a direct result of his contamination by Lasso, a powerful herbicide produced by Monsanto. France is Europe’s biggest user, by volume, of pesticides, and worldwide only India and the United States use more. For François and other campaigners seeking to alert farmers to the dangers of chemical-based phytosanitary products, their battle targets not only the clout of the industrial lobby and a reluctance of the medical profession to recognise the illnesses caused by pesticides, but also a silent taboo among the farming community itself. Claire Le Nestour reports.