Neonicotinoids: “posthumous victory” for environmental NGOs

2023-05-10 06:30:45

After twice dismissing environmental NGOs and representatives of the agricultural world in 2021 and 2022, the Council of State finally recognizes the illegality of the French derogations authorizing the use of neonicotinoids for sugar beets.

On January 19, 2023, the European Court of Justice published a judgment reminding the 27 member countries of the European Union of the ban on seeds coated with neonicotinoids. He considers the systematic derogations granted by the government as illegal under European law. In the process, on January 23, the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, declared to give up authorizing by derogation neonicotinoids in France immediately.

Since 2018, the EU has banned these insecticides from being placed on the market within its territory. However, a dozen countries, including France, had taken derogations to preserve sugar yields thanks to these insecticides. While the Council of State had twice rejected the requests of environmental NGOs and representatives of the agricultural and beekeeping world, it finally recognized in a May 3 decision what “the derogations allowing their use for sugar beet crops granted in 2021 and 2022 were […] illegal ». And for good reason, “no derogation is indeed possible if the European Commission has formally banned a pesticide”confirms the Council of State.

The association Agir pour l’environnement sees in this a “posthumous victory”but to ” bitter taste “. Indeed, she points out that “The illegal reauthorization of neonicotinoids has allowed beet growers to sow nearly 100 billion seeds and thus illegally pollute nature”.

Feedback on French derogations

On November 4, 2020, France adopted a law authorizing the use of neonicotinoids in the event of a health hazard for sugar beets. Following this vote, 60 deputies and 60 senators had seized the Constitutional Council to suspend the exceptional authorization of their use on beets until 2023. On December 10, the Constitutional Council judged however law consistent with the Constitution. But he recalled that this had to be done under the conditions provided for by the European regulations.

L’order of February 5, 2021 authorized “sugar beet seeds treated with products containing the active substances imidacloprid or thiamethoxam”. The association Acting for the environment, the Peasant confederation, the Nature and progress federation and the French Federation of professional beekeepers (UNAF) had asked the judge in chambers of the Council of State to suspend this decree. The Council of State issued its interim decision no. 450194 on March 15, 2021. He considered the decree to be in accordance with the Constitution and European law. “The contested decree, which is limited to implementing this authorization for the 2021 campaign, does not, in itself, carry any serious and manifestly illegal attack on the freedom of trade and industry and on the property rights of bee keepers »explained the Council of State.

Rebelote in 2022. In its interim decision no. 461238 of February 25, 2022, the judge in chambers considers that in the absence of an alternative solution, the derogation authorizing neonicotinoids for sugar beets in 2022 is legal. This was ultimately not the case.

This definitive ban on neonicotinoids “will prevent the addition of new pollution” welcomes for its part the NGO Pollinis, in a press release. However, she warns: “Conventional agriculture has used them for 20 years. These are molecules that persist in the environment. It will take a number of years before France is no longer polluted, as we have reached a high level of pollution”.

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