France banishes bee killer pesticides

Forty years after the 1976 law on the protection of nature, the National Assembly finally adopted Wednesday, July 20, the bill “for the recovery of biodiversity, nature and landscapes.” With a strong signal: the ban on insecticides “bee killers”. All the left voted for, the right against, the LR group denouncing “a punitive ecology”.

The text, announced by President Fran├žois Hollande almost four years ago, has had no less than four readings and multiple tribulations during the two years of shuttle between deputies and senators, in the mode three steps forward, two steps back, a step aside. With this law, “France adopts reinforced principles, new tools, strong measures to promote a new harmony between man and nature,” said Secretary of State for Biodiversity Barbara Pompili. The stakes were all the more crucial because France, thanks to its overseas territories and the importance of its maritime space, is home to ecosystems that are just as rich as they are threatened.

The result is however half-hearted. Throughout its review, this bill has been submitted to lobbies hunters, farmers and agrochemical industry, palm oil or deep-sea fishing. The debates have also been blurred by the government’s dissension, which has particularly opposed the ministers of the environment and agriculture. Finally, this arsenal of measures to combat the decline of biodiversity and the destruction of natural environments is somewhat reduced.

Derogations for neonicotinoids

Certainly, the law marks indisputable progress. On the hot issue of neonicotinoids, a family of insecticides harmful to pollinators but also, more broadly, for the environment and health, the deputies have obtained an emblematic victory: the ban of these molecules from 1 September 2018 for all agricultural crops, regardless of the uses (spraying, soil treatment or seed coating).

Article 51, however, grants derogations until 1 July 2020 when there is no alternative. These exceptions will be decided by a joint order of the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Health, on the basis of a report on the substitution molecules, which the Health Security Agency will have to return at the end of the year. year.

As such, the definitive law marks a retreat compared to previous versions that provided for a ban without derogation in 2018, or even as early as 2017. But the agreement, obtained snatched, managed to give priority to public concern – a petition garnered close to 700,000 signatures – and NGOs, heavily mobilized, on pressure from the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions and agrochemical lobbies.

“We must support farmers in this transition, which can be more or less simple, recognizes Ms. Pompili. But the ban is a strong signal and clear: we leave up to four years to the agricultural world to change practice. “

In terms of contributions, the law on biodiversity also endorses the triptych “avoid, reduce, compensate”, which applies to any developer whose project causes ecological degradation. As well as the fundamental principle of non-regression of environmental law, according to which the protection of ecosystems can only be the object of a “constant improvement”.

It also introduces into the Civil Code the recognition of ecological damage which, under the polluter pays rule, obliges the person responsible for environmental damage to repair it or, failing that, to pay damages. This, according to the case law created after the oil spill caused by the sinking of the Erika in December 1999.

It will also enable France to ratify the Nagoya Protocol, which regulates access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and imposes the sharing of the resulting benefits with local communities.

Back on palm oil

In addition to these achievements, the government and the majority have retreated on several sensitive issues. MEPs renounced the palm oil tax, known as the “Nutella tax”. This was intended to put an end to the fiscal niche that is now being enjoyed by this oil, whose production is causing large-scale deforestation. Instead, the Assembly decided to review “the current system of taxation of edible oils” within six months. At issue: the protest of the two main world producers, Indonesia and Malaysia, which almost turn to “the diplomatic incident”, as recognizes Barbara Pompili.

Among the other measures abandoned: the ban on deep trawling – which was finally adopted by the European Union at the end of June -, the recognition of the status of sensitive animals or the ban on the hunt for glue.

A French Agency for Biodiversity (AFB) will be created on January 1, 2017, to coordinate policies in favor of natural environments, advise elected officials and developers and exercise an environmental police. It will bring together 1,200 agents from four existing structures: the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments, the Technical Workshop for Natural Areas, the Agency for Marine Protected Areas and the National Parks of France. But its weight and its strike force will be reduced by the absence of the National Office of Hunting and Wildlife which, even before the examination of the law, had obtained from Fran├žois Hollande the assurance that it would keep its independence, and that of the National Forest Office.

The AFB will have an envelope of 226 million euros, the annual operating budget of the four entities, as well as an additional 60 million in the first year, as future investments. Inadequate human and financial resources for the associations.

“This law contains real progress, but the appointment is partly missed, regret in a joint statement six environmental NGOs. It does not call into question a short-sighted economic model that mortgages the future of biodiversity and therefore of our modern societies. “

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