Seeking Protection for Whistleblowers That's Worth Its Salt

The case of Pierre Meneton is fueling demands for legal protections for whistleblowers in France. Meneton is a researcher for the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. He is going to court on January 31, 2008, to face charges of defamation. Several industrial salt producers are suing Meneton for a comment he made during an interview in March 2006. "The lobbying of salt producers and agribusiness is very active. It misinforms health professionals and the media." While the negative effects of salt on health are no secret, it was not until Meneton went public with claims of unethical practices in the research analysis of the French Authority for Food Safety and of the consistent meddling of the salt industry that it was widely publicized. Environmental health researcher Andre Cicolella says that while Meneton may not be a whistleblower by all definitions, his case would benefit from the same types of protections that are lacking for those that do qualify. For instance, Veronique Lapides is a resident of the Paris suburb of Vincennes. She raised the alert about a high rate of childhood cancer in the area and pushed for environmental clean up. Now she is being sued for defamation by the mayor of Vincennes. Cicolella said that this case shows "absent laws to prtect whistleblowers, this type of pressure can be exerted not only on scientists, but on citizens as well." In the U.S., the Senate just passed a bill to reinforce whistleblower protections for U.S. government workers, but it needs to be reconciled with a stronger bill passed by the House in March 2007.