French farmers are being fined €30 million ($33 million) for spraying pesticides in France’s fields in the past three years, but the government says they have only accidentally sprayed some crops.
In a statement published on Wednesday, the Agriculture Ministry said the spraying of a single herbicide on some crops in 2010 had caused an estimated 5.3 million euros ($6.3) in damages, including to the livelihoods of more than 1,000 farmers.
The ministry said the number of people affected by the pesticide spraying is expected to be higher as the country is still in the midst of a massive drought.
The government’s action comes at a time when France is facing a rising number of complaints from farmers over their use of pesticides.
The pesticide industry has come under fire in recent years for the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly in farming, which has resulted in a rise in allergies, miscarriages and death.
A report from the European Union last year estimated that in Europe, the use and use by farmers of glyphosate-resistant crops would increase by up to 50 percent by 2025.
The European Commission has also warned that farmers may have to pay an extra 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to compensate farmers.
France has been a main producer of glyphosate, which was first approved in the early 1990s and is used to kill weeds in fields, as well as in livestock.
The agriculture ministry said that farmers had been “responsible” for the sprayings, but said that “in this case, only a small amount of glyphosate was sprayed in one field” in 2010.
It said that the ministry had conducted a study in which farmers who sprayed the herbicide did not suffer any damage.
However, the ministry said it was still investigating the circumstances of the spraying.
In its statement, the French ministry said: “In order to avoid any possibility of further contamination, the spraying had to be stopped.”
The ministry added that the farmers had not been charged for their actions, but it had paid a penalty of 1.8 million euros to compensate them.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been criticized for allowing farmers to use glyphosate in France during a drought, while many French farmers have also accused him of trying to make them pay for the pesticide.
Macron has repeatedly denied that he was trying to profit from farmers’ use of the herbicides.
In January, the government said it would impose fines of up to 2.2 million euros on French farmers who were accused of spraying glyphosate in the same area.