France tables EU-wide non-agricultural pesticide ban

France has banned the use of pesticides in public spaces. [Guillaume Baviere/Flickr]

The senator behind France’s ban on pesticides for domestic use has submitted a draft European resolution calling on the EU to follow the French example and implement a full ban on the non-agricultural use of pesticides. EURACTIV France reports.

“We have managed to do it in France, there is no reason why we should not be able to extend the ban to the rest of Europe.” For Green senator Joël Labbé, ending the use of pesticides in gardens is just common sense.

At a press conference on Tuesday (28 March) the author of the law on the use of phytosanitary products in France announced that he had submitted an EU resolution to ban the non-agricultural use of pesticides across Europe.

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The non-binding resolution calls on the EU to look into the possibility of a pesticide ban for private consumers, as well as local authorities.

France became the first EU country to take this step with the Labbé law in 2014. In force since January this year, the first stage of the law forbids the use of pesticides by the French state, local authorities and public bodies for the maintenance of public spaces, forests and roadsides. Derogations exist for cemeteries and sports grounds.

Reduction in pesticide use

The sale of phytosanitary products to amateur gardeners will also be banned from January 2019. With the vast majority of phytosanitary products in France used in professional agriculture, the law will cut the overall use of these chemicals by around 10%.

“France is very clearly in the lead on the subject of pesticide reduction, even if other European countries are beginning to act,” said Sophie Bordères from Générations Futures.

Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have set themselves similar targets of cutting non-agricultural pesticide use. “Wallonia, for example, became a ‘zero phyto’ area in 2015, with some exceptions that will expire in 2019,” said Bordères.

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At European level, the 28 member states have already agreed to establish national action plans to cut the use of pesticides. “But in reality, France is one of the only countries that has really put this plan into action,” Bordères added.

Once the EU’s biggest pesticides addict, ahead of Spain, France’s ‘Ecophyto’ plan provides the country with a roadmap to slash its consumption of agricultural chemicals.

But pesticide use has continued to grow since the plan was first elaborated in 2008, jumping by 9.4% from 2013-14 alone. “Yet, in 2015-16 the use of pesticides in non-agricultural areas fell by 14%. So far, this may be the only success of the Ecophyto plan,” the Générations Futures representative said.

Growing awareness

Awareness is really growing in France about the health and environmental impacts of phytosanitary products,” said Labbé. “Now the text has to be examined in the committees and it should be ready in two or three months, at the latest,” the senator added.

Pesticides are a particularly touchy subject for the EU. On 15 March, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) ruled that there was not enough scientific evidence to classify glyphosate, one of the most-used herbicides in Europe and an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, as a carcinogen.

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This may influence the EU executive’s decision on whether or not to renew the market authorisation for this chemical, which many NGOs and several EU member states, including France, would prefer to see banned.

More broadly, the European approval system for pesticides has regularly been criticised, particularly by Ombudswoman Emily O’Reilly, for its inadequate application of the precautionary principle.

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