France: Four out of ten shops breach pesticides law

Monsanto's Roundup is the earliest formulation of glyphosate. [Greenpeace EU]

A consumer organisation has denounced the lax application of a law governing the sale of pesticides to the public in France, where close to half of shops break the law. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.

44% of shops continue to sell pesticides on self-service shelves, despite a ban that entered into force on 1 January 2017. This was the conclusion of a study published by consumer group CLCV on Tuesday (11 July). The study covered specialised shops and supermarkets with a gardening section.

“When we began this investigation, we never expected this result,” said Adrien Tchang-Minh, the head of environment at CLCV.

Which products are concerned?

France’s agriculture ministry makes a distinction between two categories of products: those known as “bio controlled”, which are mainly natural substances that limit the risk of toxicity, and chemical phytosanitary products.

The law on the future of agriculture, food and forests (LAAAF) concerns chemical pesticides, and it is the sale of these dangerous products that the consumer association’s investigation targeted.

What the law says

Since January, chemical pesticides have been banned from the self-service shelves of supermarkets and specialised shops. They must be kept in a dedicated area, not accessible to the public, and sales must be managed by a staff member who can advise customers.

Yet, in many of the shops the association visited, “products were freely accessible or in unlocked cabinets,” said Tchang-Minh. “And the advice, when it was available, was not always very precise.”

A worrying conclusion

The study was carried out between March and May 2017. “Undercover” CLCV members visited supermarkets and garden centres and recorded the availability of controlled pesticides. On average, one-third of the controlled substances available on the shelves should not have been there.

A spokesperson for the association said, “The worrying thing is the lack of advice available,” which was absent in 22% of cases. “When salespeople did provide advice, it was often very accurate and interesting, but sometimes we were given no information on how to use the product, how the user should protect themselves or whether it was possible to use less toxic products.”

Contacted by Ouest-France, the supermarket chains and specialist shops did not respond.

CLCV has called on shops that sell pesticides to guarantee a certain level of training for their staff. “We cannot have just anyone selling pesticides,” said Tchang-Minh. “We need qualified people who understand the products they are selling and how to direct customers towards softer alternatives.”

Another troubling finding of the study is that these controlled pesticides are often freely available on the internet, without any accompanying advice.

What does the future hold?

A complete ban on the sale of chemical pesticides to non-professionals in France will be introduced in 2019, to allow manufacturers to use up the last of their stocks. CLCV has appealed to the government to ensure the state polices the ban strictly.