A French beekeeping company has filed a lawsuit against German chemicals company Bayer after traces of the herbicide glyphosate – manufactured by US agrichem giant Monsanto – were found in honey.

The lawsuit was filed on 7 June to coincide with closing of Bayer’s much publicised US$62.5M acquisition of Monsanto.

According to the L’Abaille de l’Aisne Beekeeping Union, its member cooperative Famille Michaud – one of France’s largest honey marketers – found the weedkiller in three batches of honey supplied by one of its farmers, wrote Taipei Times on 10 June.

Emmanuel Ludot, Famille Michaud's lawyer, said the glyphosate tainted honey came from a producer whose beehives were near large-scale sunflower, rapeseed and beet fields, but he added that amateur gardeners were known to use glyphosate products – such as Monsanto’s Roundup – as well.

Ludot hoped that the court case would prompt an inquiry to determine the percentage of glyphosate in the honey batches and any health consequences it could have for humans.

“It’s also a matter of knowing how widespread this might be. Famille Michaud tells me this isn’t an isolated case,” said Ludot.

According to the honey firm, it regularly detected foreign substances, including glyphosate, in honey batches delivered to it and that it rejected any shipments which were found to contain the herbicide.

“Usually beekeepers will say ‘In that case I’ll sell the honey at a roadside stand or a market’ where there is no quality control,” said Vincent Michaud, Famille Michaud president.

“But this beekeeper had the courage to say ‘I’m not going to be like everyone else, I’m going to file suit against Monsanto’.”