Pesticides. Senate votes for temporary reintroduction of neonicotinoids

The Senate a right-wing majority gave its approval on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday to the bill allowing the temporary reintroduction bee-killing neonicotinoids to save the beet industry, at the end of a sometimes tense debate with the left and after a voting incident.

It was adopted at first reading with 184 votes in favor, 128 against and 28 abstentions. Within the senatorial majority, 12 LR senators voted against, as did 8 centrists and one Independent. Ten LR, 10 centrists and 3 Independents abstained.

Article 1 at the heart of the project

In the majority RDPI group En Marche, Xavier Iacovelli voted against and 5 elected representatives abstained.

Voted against the PS groups (with the exception of Jean-Pierre Sueur who voted for), RDSE with a radical majority, CRCE with a communist and environmentalist majority.

Just before the vote on the whole text, the Senate had to vote again on article 1, the heart of the bill, which had been deleted with one vote, after a handling error by the centrist group during the electronic ballot on deleting amendments presented by the left.

The article was thus reinstated, by a show of hands this time.

Agricultural “emergency”

“Emergency” agricultural and industrial for some, “Environmental regression” for others: strong positions have been affirmed on this controversial bill.

According to LR rapporteur Sophie Primas, the senatorial majority did not “Not wanted to break his balance”, for the sake of “Efficiency”. Deputies and senators should thus be able to reach agreement on a common text in a joint committee, with a view to rapid final adoption.

It authorizes, by way of derogation, sugar beet producers to use seeds treated with pesticides of the neonicotinoid family until 2023, banned since 2018. The exemptions are explicitly limited to sugar beet.

The bill provides for the creation of a supervisory board to give an opinion on exemptions, as well as the prohibition, on plots where neonicotinoids have been used, to plant crops that attract bees so as not to exhibit.

“The beet industry is now in danger”

The exemptions should be effective by December at the latest, to allow time for manufacturers to produce the seeds needed for sowing in March. The cause is a green aphid which transmits jaundice to beets, a disease that weakens the plant, leading to a significant loss of yield.

The senators brought forward the entry into force of the law until December 15, with the consent of the Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie.

“Yes, the French sugar beet industry is now in danger”, said the minister, for whom “It is not a question of opposing ecology and economy, it is a question of sovereignty”.

“Agrochemical lobby”

For the rapporteur, “Two political visions of ecology” are opposed, one “Ecology of mistrust choosing to prohibit” and an “Ecology of trust (…) which is based on the reality of our territories, on progress and on research”.

The discussions became tense when the president of the environmental group Guillaume Gontard denounced “A huge victory for the agrochemical lobby, Bayer-Monsanto’s Trojan horse”, accusing the government of “Deal a violent blow to all the world‘s biodiversity”.

“I found your words absolutely scandalous”, reacted Mr. Denormandie, lambasting “An ecology of defamation”.

For Laurence Rossignol (PS), “It’s not a good debate, a debate where we accuse ourselves of telling untruths”.

Against the advice of the government

In session, the Senate unanimously adopted, against the opinion of the government, an amendment by the rapporteur aiming to allow the Ministers of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs to oppose the importation of foodstuffs treated with substances prohibited at European level.

In 2016, Parliament voted to ban plant protection products based on neonicotinoids, a family of pesticides that act on the central nervous system of insects and mammals, a ban that has been fully applicable since 2018.

Even if research avenues are promising, no alternative is currently available for beet growers.

For the year 2020, Ms. Primas mentions estimated yield losses “Between 13 and 20%” in the national territory, which includes unaffected areas. “In some departments, average losses will undoubtedly be over 40 or even 50%”.

In total, the sector represents nearly 46,000 jobs, direct and indirect.

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