France Reneges on its Promise Not to Use Neonicotinoids

posted in: News | 0

Special Report by Colleen McDuling – Science Correspondent

February 04, 2021

Vegetable Crops Grown Veganically Without Agrochemicals – Yatesbury, Wiltshire

Photograph Copyright © Colleen McDuling, 2019

The 2018 French ban on the indoor and outdoor use of all five of the neonicotinoids represented an historic move on the part of the French government to protect bees, biodiversity and ecosystems. The ban was hailed as a landmark victory for bees and the environment. But in a shocking reversal of policy, the neonicotinoids have been given blanket approval for use.  

On December 10, 2020 the French constitutional council gave its approval for the use of neonicotinoids on sugar beet for three years.[1],[2] The use of neonicotinoids had been vigorously debated in the French parliament and in October 2020 a law was passed to allow the use of these toxic chemical on sugar beet. This law was then passed to the constitutional council. Over 100 MPs opposed it. Notwithstanding this opposition, the constitutional council approved the bill, saying that it complied with France’s environmental policies.

French farmers greeted the news with enthusiasm. It is estimated that sugar beet farmers suffered losses of up to €280 Million due to Virus Yellows Disease caused by aphids.

Environmentalists, on the other hand were vigorously outspoken and expressed great disappointment on the ruling. Delphine Batho, the president of Génération Écologie, a leading green party, stated that this was a “serious regression that the rehabilitation of this poison constitutes, and the monstrous consequences for pollinators, birds and many other species.” [3]  

French agronomist, Marc Dufumier, in an article published in Le Monde in January 2021, attacked the French government for its inability to respect its ecological commitments. He went on to say that there were already alternatives to the use of neonicotinoids and glyphosate. He strongly recommended crop rotations and the use of old fashioned “peasant-like know-how”.[4] He went on to say that Emmanuel Macron, the French President, admitted that he was powerless to prevent the use of either of the neonicotinoids or glyphosate on crops because it was not up to him but rather a “collective” decision.

COVID-19 aside, there have been demonstrations in France by eco-organizations who seek to get this ruling overturned. It would behove the French government to heed to the requests of such organizations and bring about positive change in agriculture in France and reconsider overturning the ban on toxic agrochemicals.


[1] France approves three-year use of controversial pesticide; https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/France-approves-three-year-use-of-controversial-pesticide-neonicotinoids

[2] Néonicotinoïdes : le Conseil constitutionnel valide la loi levant partiellement leur interdiction; https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2020/12/10/neonicotinoides-le-conseil-constitutionnel-valide-le-projet-de-loi-levant-partiellement-leur-interdiction_6062939_3244.html

[3] See Footnote at 1

[4] “There are already alternatives to the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoids”; Article translated from the French; Original article: “Il existe déjà des alternatives à l’emploi du glyphosate et des néonicotinoïdes”; https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2021/01/02/il-existe-deja-des-pratiques-agricoles-alternatives-a-l-emploi-du-glyphosate-et-des-neonicotinoides_6065017_3232.html