Battle of the neonicotinoids: bees will still have to wait

On paper, bees should rejoice: their main enemy, responsible for the death of 300,000 hives a year, pesticides from the neonicotinoid family have been banned. In the second reading of the biodiversity law in the House, MEPs adopted an amendment to ban them. However, its application has been postponed until 1 September 2018. But the Senate has yet to vote. But pressure from industrial groups is raging. But the political prevarication is intense in an agriculture in crisis. With all these butThe bees can worry and their reprieve at the 1er September 2018 does not mark the end of their struggle.
D’From a scientific point of view, the case should not be open to debate. More than a thousand studies converge to denounce neonicotinoid pesticides as being responsible for the death of bees. « There are now more than 1100 studies against neonicotinoids, so we must stop procrastinating. These pesticides kill bees, and they should be banned... ", insists Gilles Lagneau, the president of the National Union of French Beekeeping (UNAF).

Neonics kill

Neonics", a diminutive of these toxic products that appeared in 1994, attack the nervous system of insects, causing paralysis and then death. They have the property of being systemic and spreading throughout the plant, from sap to pollen. One third of the insecticides sold worldwide are neonics, marketed in France under the brand names of Gaucho and Cruiser. Beekeepers are particularly targeting imidacloprid - "7,297 times more toxic than DDT" - which is becoming widely distributed in the environment. According to the newspaper The WorldSince 2013, this insecticide has been among the fifteen substances most detected in French rivers and streams, whereas five years earlier it had been ranked over 50th.

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Pollinators are decimated by the use of these substances in the millions. Bees, in particular, are disoriented and can no longer find their way back to the hive. Mortality in hives is increasing, which is not without consequences for humans, since our food is paying the price. Three-quarters of the world's crops depend on insect pollination.

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At the initiative of France, the European Union had restricted some of their uses in 2013, but neonicotinoids are still widely used. However, ecologists and several socialists argue that several hundred scientific studies have proven their harmfulness on wild bees and pollinators but also on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, fish, birds and, ultimately, humans. In addition to the "responsibility" towards future generations, invoked by several elected representatives, including the rapporteur, Socialist Geneviève Gaillard, the advocates of the ban stressed that farmers themselves were "paying the price" for these products. These molecules, which are much more powerful than DDT, have a similar mechanism to nicotine, argued Gérard Bapt (PS), a doctor by profession, calling for "... a ban on the use of DDT in the food industry. who would advise a pregnant woman to smoke?".

Fire of any kind of wood

In the face of what clearly appear to be scientific certainties sanctioned by law, the agrochemical industry has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of this fight, joined in by the major agricultural producers and even, for a time, by the Minister of Agriculture himself. In this battle, certain elected officials, notably LR, took the opportunity to play politics and oppose the government.
Frank Garnier, President of the French branch of the Bayer Group
Industrialists believe that the amendment is not based on conclusive scientific data and are therefore defending farmers. This is how Frank Garnier, the president of the French branch of the Bayer group, denounces "the lack of a scientific basis for the amendment. a short-term measure that purports to resolve a complex issue and long-term challenges; and ». The insecticide producer talks about the impact on farmers' competitiveness. « Beyond our products, this is once again a real attack on the competitiveness of French farmers, to whom we are gradually eliminating their production tools while their European neighbours continue to use them to a very large extent. "he told the magazine Boursorama. Some sectors (tree crops, maize, cereals and beet) are at risk of "...". find themselves in real deadlock to protect their crops... "he says. With the return of" certain diseases such as viral jaundice or pests such as aphids ", the harvest could drop by 15 to 40%," Frank Garnier said.
Same argument among large producers and grain farmers. The associations and federations of wheat (AGPB), corn (AGPM), oilseed and protein crop (FOP) and beet (CGB) producers' associations and federations consider that "... the farmers' associations and federations are not in a position to make a decision on the future of their crops. this measure seriously handicaps their competitiveness, creating a new source of distortion of competition vis-à-vis their European neighbours - who are not subject to such a ban ». They point out that " French agriculture is going through one of the worst crises in its history ".

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In an unusual move, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll had sent a letter to MPs calling on them not to impose such "brutal bans" at the French level alone, out of a concern to avoid "distortions" of competition with other European farmers. This procedure came as "little surprise" to Ségolène Royal, the Minister of the Environment. This is what she explained on Thursday on BFMTV, saying she understands this "concern" to defend farmers but castigating "the French government's "concern" for the environment and the environment". rearguard battles on the maintenance of pesticides in particular ». The LR and UDI deputies, some of whom criticised the advocates of a general ban on " seek a symbolic, political, media victory "They hammered that the measure would further "penalize" French farmers already in crisis.

30 votes to 28

It is in this context that the National Assembly was the scene of intense debates that finally led to the adoption by 30 votes to 28 of the proposal by the Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, Jean-Paul Chanteguet (PS) supporting the ban, without possible derogation, of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are considered harmful to bees. An order will provide later " concrete responses to farmers faced with a sudden outbreak of a pest that could jeopardize their harvests ». And the list of alternatives to neonicotinoids will be determined on the basis of an opinion from Anses (the French Food and Health Safety Agency).
As a sign that the pressure is not about to die down, the implementation of the ban has been postponed until September 1, 2018, to give farmers time to find alternatives. A period of danger for bees all the more so, as Delphine Batho, Member of Parliament, pointed out in a tweet posted at the time of the vote: "The bill still has to go to the Senate before it comes back to the House... The fight isn't over tonight... ». Indeed, the Senate (which had previously withdrawn the ban on neonicotinoids from the text) is due to vote on a second reading on a date that is not yet known.
In a statementGreenpeace, which recalls that a petition had been signed by 135,000 people in support of the ban, calls for continued mobilization and vigilance. It is disappointing to see a ban that has been awaited for years being postponed again. We will ensure that this time limit is used wisely. It must allow the government to implement concrete means to ensure that non-chemical alternatives are developed and made available to farmers. "

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