May 10, 2019 / 10:15 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-French prosecutor opens investigation over suspected Monsanto file

(Adds FleishmanHillard comment)

PARIS, May 10 (Reuters) - The French prosecutor on Friday said it had opened a preliminary investigation into a suspected file assembled by Bayer’s seed maker Monsanto to influence various personalities in France.

The probe was opened after a complaint was filed by daily newspaper Le Monde.

According to Le Monde and other French media, Monsanto built up a file of some 200 names that includes journalists and law makers in the hope of influencing their positions on pesticides.

The file, Le Monde reports, dates from 2016 and was leaked by U.S public relations and marketing agency FleishmanHillard.

Officials at Bayer were not immediately available for comment.

“FleishmanHillard and our staff are committed to compliance with applicable laws and we are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct,” the firm said in a statement. “We continue to take that responsibility very seriously and will carefully examine the questions raised by certain media outlets about the lists of stakeholders that included publicly available information.”

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year, faces mounting litigations over its weedkiller Roundup, a systemic, broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide.

A U.S. jury in August 2018 found the company liable because Monsanto had not warned of alleged cancer risks linked to Roundup.

Bayer suffered a similar defeat last month, while more than 13,000 plaintiffs are claiming damages. The company said last month it intended to defend itself in all lawsuits. (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Matthias Blamont Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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