derogation banned by EU court, France “analyzes” the decision

FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP This picture taken on September 30, 2020 shows an organic beet field in Vimy, northern France. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/AFP)


Neonicotinoids: derogation prohibited by EU court, France “analyzes” the decision (Illustration photo: beet fields in Vimy in Northern France in September 2020)

ENVIRONMENT – No reduction is possible from the European ban on seeds treated with neonicotinoids, including in exceptional circumstances required to protect beets, is expected this Thursday, January 19, the Court of Justice of the European Union, compromising “emergency clearance” granted by several countries including France.

The European Union (EU) has since 2018 banned the open field use, for all crops, of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid), accused of hastening the massive decline of bee colonies.

However, eleven EU Member States have adopted “emergency clearance” to cope with the decline in their yields due to disease, including Belgium and France – which are preparing to renew their reductions for a third year.

Fear of reduced yields

If tomorrow France lifts the new derogation, around 24,000 French beet farmers will be in “very difficult situation”, reacts to AFP Christian Durlin, producer from the north of France. He is worried about declining yields and eventually production in the country, Europe’s leading sugar producer.

Confiscated by NGOs and beekeepers from a six-derogation case adopted in autumn 2018 by Belgium, specifically regarding seeds, the European Union Court of Justice (CJEU) found them illegal. The CJEU decision is binding on the Twenty Seven Courts.

Contacted by AFP, the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture observed that the reduction, accompanied by “strict usage measures”has not been issued since 2020, therefore the Court’s decision will not exist “no consequences for Belgium” as opposed to countries still granting authorization.

A “decision analysis” Ongoing

France’s Ecology Transitional Ministry, asked by AFP, did not respond Thursday afternoon. The Ministry of Agriculture has demonstrated that“decision analysis” ongoing.

Admittedly, the Court ruled, a provision allows Member States to authorize, on an insulting and temporary basis, the use of pesticides containing substances banned in the EU, but this provision “does not allow derogation from regulations expressly aimed at prohibiting the placing on the market and the use of seeds treated with the product”.

Member States are required to support insecticidal methods “low pesticide”even “non-chemical” whenever possible, and for use “practices and products that present the lowest risk to human health and the environment among those available”said the Court.

Threat to pollinators

Neonicotinoids, which appeared in the 1990s, attack the nervous system of insects, as well as pollinators. Even at low doses, bees and bumblebees become disoriented, can no longer find the nest, male sperm changes…

In France, Parliament authorized a temporary rollback of neonicotinoids in late 2020 to save the beet industry after crops were ravaged by jaundice, a disease transmitted by green aphids. The law stipulates that a derogation can only be granted, until July 2023, for sugar beet seeds.

A third derogation for the 2023 planting year from March, after 2021 and 2022, will be adopted. But several organizations, including the Bird Protection League (LPO), called on the government to stop it.

The meeting of the French Neonicotinoid Monitoring Board, originally scheduled for Friday on this issue, has been postponed to January 26.

One “big day for bees”

In Germany, exemptions for the use of neonicotinoids will be granted in about a third of the beet area by 2021, according to the sector federation.

For the 14 pesticides banned by Brussels, 236 derogations have been adopted across the EU in the last four years, half of them related to neonicotinoids, estimates the PAN European association, a joint applicant before the CJEU.

“The CJEU made it clear that substances banned in the EU for health or environmental reasons cannot be indirectly reintroduced at the state level, a practice that has become commonplace”observed NGO lawyer Antoine Bailleux.

PAN Europe Director Martin Dermine praised “what a day for pollinators in Europe”who “remembering that the law must take precedence over the interests of the pesticide industry and agribusiness lobby”.

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