03:28 GMT19 April 2021
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    The probe into the potential "collection of personal information by fraudulent, unfair or illicit means" was launched following a complaint by Le Monde and one of its journalists, whose name appears on the list; anti-pesticide NGOs Foodwatch and Generations Futures are also preparing to lodge legal complaints.

    French authorities have opened a preliminary enquiry into allegations that controversial US pesticide giant Monsanto illegally collected information on the views and pliability of hundreds of high-profile figures and media outlets in France.

    READ MORE: Bayer Apologises for Monsanto Collecting Personal Data Amid French Probe

    The documents were apparently compiled by FleishmanHillard, which assessed the views of targeted individuals and media entities across France on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate and genetically modified crops, as well as the likelihood they could be influenced in their opinions. Monsanto was convicted in the US in 2018 of not taking necessary steps to warn of the potential risks of its product Roundup, despite being aware that the weedkiller contained a likely carcinogenic chemical.

    German pharmaceutical firm Bayer, which bought Monsanto in June that year, announced in April over 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller have been launched in the US — Bayer shares have fallen about 40 percent since the US$63 billion purchase was completed.

    Alongside journalists, politicians and scientists are listed, along with their leisure pursuits, addresses and phone numbers — some were considered "priority targets", others "potential allies".

    France's former Environment Minister Segolene Royal is said to have appeared on the list — she noted that the allegations said "a lot about the methods of lobbyists…they carry out spying, infiltration, seek to influence, sometimes financially", and many other companies were likely to employ similar practices.

    Sheldon Krimsky, Lenore Stern professor of humanities and social sciences in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, told Sputnik that Monsanto "has a long history" of threatening to litigate journals and publishers when they publish "uncomplimentary" articles or books about to the company.

    "They've also had undue influence on US regulators, and exercised influence over journals to retract articles that came to conclusions against its financial interests. If the French prosecutor has probable cause of Monsanto exercising undue influence on journalists and lawmakers that violate French law, he has good reason to investigate. Monsanto has shown it will circumvent scientific standards and publication ethics to protect its products. If the French proceed with litigation and can obtain 'discovery documents' they will learn a great deal about this company that's often hidden from the public", Krimsky said.

    Emilie Gaillard, a professor at France's University of Caen and member of the Monsanto Tribunal's legal committee, added that the files described by Le Monde are prohibited under French law, and "many people" will file legal complaints against the company as a result.

    "It's very bad publicity for the company and could open the way for deputies [French MPs] to vote for a law creating new offences and criminalising this and similar behaviour on the part of any country. In our epoch, everybody can manipulate everybody", she explained to Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik


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    spying on journalists, corporate espionage, infiltration, spying, spies, Monsanto, Bayer, United Kingdom
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