No derogation is possible from the European ban on seeds treated with neonicotinoids, including in the exceptional circumstances invoked to protect beets, the Court of Justice of the European Union estimated on Thursday, compromising "
" granted by several countries including France.
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The European Union has banned since 2018 the use in open fields, for all crops, of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid), accused of accelerating the massive decline of bee colonies.
However, eleven EU Member States have adopted "
" to deal with the drop in their yields in the face of diseases, including Belgium and France, which was preparing to renew its derogation for the third year. .
24,000 planters concerned
If tomorrow France gave up a new derogation, the 24,000 or so French beet growers would find themselves in "
a very difficult situation
", reacted to AFP Christian Durlin, producer in northern France.
He fears a drop in yields and eventually in production in the country, Europe's leading sugar producer.
Seized by NGOs and a beekeeper of the case of six derogations adopted in the fall of 2018 by Belgium, concerning in particular seeds, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) deemed them illegal.
The judgments of the CJEU are binding on the courts of the Twenty-Seven.
Contacted by AFP, the Belgian Ministry of Agriculture observed that its derogations, accompanied by "
strict measures of use
", have not been issued since 2020, and therefore that the judgment of the Court will have "
no consequence for Belgium
" unlike the countries still granting authorisations.
The French Ministry of Ecological Transition, requested by AFP, did not respond late Thursday afternoon.
The Ministry of Agriculture meanwhile indicated that “
an analysis of the decision
” was in progress.
Read alsoNeonicotinoid seeds: no possible derogation from the EU ban
Admittedly, the Court ruled, a provision allows Member States to authorize exceptionally and temporarily the use of pesticides containing substances banned in the EU, but this provision "
does not allow derogation from the regulations expressly aimed at prohibiting placing on the market and use of seeds treated with such products
Member States are required to favor insecticidal methods "
low in pesticide content
", or even "
" when possible, and to use "
practices and products presenting the lowest risk to human health and environment among those available
", underlines the Court.
Neonicotinoids, which appeared in the 1990s, attack the nervous system of insects, and therefore pollinators.
Even at low doses, bees and bumblebees are disoriented, can no longer find their hive, male sperm is altered...
Big day for the bees
In France, Parliament authorized the temporary return of neonicotinoids at the end of 2020 to rescue the beet industry after a harvest ravaged by jaundice, a disease transmitted by green aphids.
The law specified that derogations could only be granted, until July 2023, for sugar beet seeds.
A third derogation for the 2023 cropping campaign, after those of 2021 and 2022, was about to be adopted in view of the seeds which begin in March.
The French Neonicotinoid Monitoring Council was to meet on Friday to decide on the government's derogation project, a meeting shunned by several organizations, including the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO).
In Germany, exemptions for the use of neonicotinoids were granted on around a third of beet areas in 2021, according to the sector federation.
Read alsoThe Minister of Agriculture in favor of a new exemption for neonicotinoids in 2023
For 14 pesticides banned by Brussels, 236 derogations have been adopted across the EU in the past four years, half of them concerning neonicotinoids, estimates the association PAN Europe, co-applicant before the CJEU.
The CJEU clearly establishes that substances banned in the EU for health or environmental reasons cannot be reintroduced in a roundabout way at state level, a practice that has become common
," observes NGO lawyer Antoine Bailleux.
PAN Europe Director Martin Dermine hailed "
a great day for pollinators in Europe
", which "
recalls that the law must take precedence over the interests of the pesticide industry and agribusiness lobbies