Farming News - French legislators approve neonicotinoid ban

French legislators approve neonicotinoid ban

18 Mar 2016
Frontdesk / Arable

French legislators have moved closer to banning controversial pesticides which have been implicated in pollinator declines.

The French National Assembly narrowly passed plans for an outright ban on neonicotinoid pesticides as part of a draft biodiversity bill, which also contains other environmental measures. The draft bill was passed on its second reading late on Thursday. The bill was first passed by the National Assembly in March 2015, but was then rejected by the Senate, which made amendments.

Three neonicotinoid pesticides have been subjected to partial bans in the EU in light of mounting evidence of their impacts on bee health, though manufacturers maintain that, when used correctly, they pose no threat to bees and other non-target insects.

On Friday, French environment minister Ségolène Royal said the bill aims to restore a relationship with nature that is “Not only harmonious but fruitful, good for health, good for innovation and good for jobs.” In a Tweet sent after the late night vote, Royal said, “I welcome the ban on neonicotinoid insecticides.”

France’s ban is not set to come into force until September 2018; agriculture minister Stefan LeFoll welcomed this later date - lawmakers initially proposed a January 2017 deadline - saying this would allow for the evaluation of alternative solutions to the pesticides, which the “sudden deadline” would not. The farming minister is mobilising France’s DEPHY network of 1,900 pilot farms, which are looking at reducing and replacing pesticide use as part of the French Government’s ‘Ecophyto’ and ‘Produisons Autrement’ (producing differently) plans.

Next week marks the eleventh ‘Alternatives to Pesticides week’ in France. Launched in 2008, France’s Ecophyto plan aims to bring down pesticide use by 50% by 2025.  

In a statement issued on Friday, French environment minister Royal said, ”neonicotinoid insecticides have an effect on the nervous system of bees and recent scientific studies suggest a possible effect on brain development of human beings. Today we know these effects and we must have the courage to apply the precautionary principle. "

She said the passage of the bill would strengthen laws to protect bees and vital pollinating insects (insect pollination is worth an estimated €1.5 billion each year in France alone), and called on state agricultural research agency INRA to accelerate work to help farmers find substitutes for neonics.

Having passed through the National Assembly, the bill will now go back to the French Senate, before a final vote in the Assembly, expected in the summer.