“He was aware of the dangerousness of these products but he made it his duty to do so. It was his religion: that the job be well done,” says Jeanne, 75, mother of five children, living in a small town between Loire-Atlantique and Vendée.

Her husband, Constant (forenames changed), a dairy cow breeder, treated his crops with pesticides from the age of 14. He died at age 69 of a brain tumor. “We were in misery. My children had to help me to live. During the illness, we spent a lot of money”, remembers Jeanne.

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Recognition a year ago

In February 2020, the Nantes regional committee for the recognition of occupational diseases (CRRMP), made up of three doctors, established a “direct and essential link” between Constant’s disease and his profession as a farmer.

“From recent scientific literature, it appears that such exposure (to pesticides, editor’s note) is associated with an increased risk of developing cerebral glioma,” said the committee in an opinion consulted by AFP.

An annuity for widows

“I did this for my husband. It was important that his honor be defended,” said his wife. This recognition also means an income of just over 7,000 euros per year for Jeanne who will “no longer need to ask (her) daughters for money, to pay attention to (s) ‘buy food”. “It’s huge, unexpected,” she says.

Karine, for her part, had to go to court to have her husband’s disease recognized, who died in March 2020, at age 43, from a glioblastoma diagnosed a year earlier. “The income will allow us to fix the house”, explains the dairy cow breeder, who receives in the kitchen of her farm, where the temperature barely exceeds 13 ° C.

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On December 10, the Rennes TGI agreed with him on a question of deadline, without commenting on the scientific aspect.

Dead in less than a year

Jean-Michel, Odette, Michel, Christophe … “We had to know several rather young peasants who died in less than a year after brain tumors”, says Michel Besnard, from the collective of support for victims of pesticides in the ‘West, who defended both cases.

The collective’s lawyer, Hermine Baron, talks about six current or past cases. “It’s complicated because these are pathologies in which the vital prognosis is engaged quickly”, she says.

All the more complicated since brain tumors are not recognized pathologies in the table of agricultural occupational diseases. Unlike Parkinson’s disease or malignant hemopathies caused by pesticides, the recognition of which is in principle facilitated.

Limited level of evidence

The Mutualité sociale agricole (MSA), which processes the files, has counted “12 cases of malignant brain tumors having been the subject of a passage in CRRMP” between 2014 and 2020, most of the time without success, according to a spokeswoman.

She recalls that a 2013 Inserm report noted “a limited level of evidence” as to the link between pesticides and brain tumors.

Complicated studies to establish

“It is more difficult to carry out studies on rare diseases because the power of statistical analyzes (…) is directly linked to the size of the studies”, explains Isabelle Baldi, epidemiologist at the University of Bordeaux.

But the Agrican cohort, which includes 180,000 participants affiliated with the MSA, “shows higher risks of central nervous system tumors in users of pesticides on certain crops (potatoes, sunflowers and beets)”, she emphasizes. . “In addition, links have been demonstrated with insecticides, herbicides and fungicides from the group of carbamate pesticides.”

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The Agrican survey thus points to a risk that can be multiplied by 3 or 4 depending on the pesticides used and the tumors concerned. “These recognition procedures have a future”, wants to believe Hermine Baron.