Public Prosecutor v. 21 Voluntary Reapers

17025000001, 1721900021
October 26, 2016
Provisional judgment
France, Foix

Justice, Economic stakeholders
Public Prosecutor of Foix, Espace Emeraude
Environmental NGOs, Individual
Guillaume Tumerelle

Criminal court
Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup
Convict the defendants for damage to the property of others committed at meetings on 9/27/2016 in St Jean du Falga and Pamiers and on 3/1/2017 in Foix.
High Court of Foix, France

March 29, 2023
The court orders the acquittal of the 21 defendants, and considers that their action meets the requirement of proportionality required by the state of necessity.

On March 29, 2023, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) rejected the appeal lodged by the Voluntary Anti-GMO Reapers, and sentenced them to a 300-euro suspended fine each for damaging store cans of weedkillers containing glyphosate. In so doing, it upheld the ruling of the Toulouse Court of Appeal of May 31, 2022, which overturned the acquittal judgment handed down by the lower court.

The defendants had invoked the state of necessity - a cause exonerating them from criminal liability - and the precautionary principle, arguing that their actions were intended to alert the stores concerned and their customers to the dangers of marketing weedkillers containing glyphosate without sufficient warnings, to prevent this marketing and to protect public health as well as their own health. In order to rule on the merits of this argument, the court of first instance decided to stay the proceedings and refer for a preliminary ruling on the validity of regulation No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, in the light of the precautionary principle.

Once the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, answering the 4 questions referred for a preliminary ruling, has been delivered on October 1, 2019 (C-616/17), the Tribunal de Foix ruled on the merits of the case on June 1, 2021. It found that the conditions required to invoke the state of necessity had been met, namely : - a necessary and proportionate act to safeguard the person or property; - in the face of a present or imminent danger threatening the person, others or property, CF article 122-7 of the French Penal Code. It is notably on the basis of the judgment of October 1, 2019, from which it is possible to deduce the under-assessment of the risks of certain products in the absence of taking into account the cocktail effect (p.21), that the Tribunal has indeed recognized the existence of such a danger. The Court also considered that the action was necessary to inform the public and store managers, and proportionate.

However, according to the Cour de cassation, the commission of such an offence was not the only means of avoiding a present or imminent danger, as the defendants had access to numerous political, militant and institutional means of action that exist in any democratic state. The Cour de cassation therefore upheld the appellate court's decision, on the grounds that the act was neither necessary nor proportionate. It should be emphasized that the Court did not rule on the very existence of the danger highlighted by the lower court's decision.

This CJEU ruling is the basis for the complaint lodged by the "Secrets Toxiques" coalition of associations (N°2000084).