Neonicotinoid insecticides will be able to be used again in the cultivation of sugar beet. This is the decision rendered on Monday March 15 by the Council of State. The decree specifies a use "for the 2021 campaign alone and for the maximum period of 120 days" . This is obviously a huge disappointment for the NGOs Agir pour l'Environnement, Terre d'Abeilles and the Nature et Progress Federation, which have been campaigning for a long time for the prohibition of these products that are harmful to bees and the ecosystem.
As defined: “Neonicotinoids (NNIs) are a class of insecticides acting on the central nervous system of insects. These substances are used mainly in agriculture for the protection of plants (phytosanitary products) and by individuals or companies to fight against insects harmful to human and animal health (biocidal products) ”
These products, the use of which had resumed in February 2021, seem to be able to be the only ones to contain an infestation of aphids which ravage beet crops. In any case, this is the argument put forward by the producers. They attributed a 30% drop in their harvest to the aphid and estimated the losses at 280 million euros. In the absence of more natural alternative means to counteract the damage caused by the insects, the judge decided that "the significant losses of production undergone in 2020 testify that there are no other reasonable means to control this danger for the agricultural production concerned, at least for the 2021 campaign ” .
The NGOs therefore came up against a court which justified its decision on the fact that the reintroduction of pesticides in beet crops was not contrary to the Constitution or to European law, which provides for exemptions from their general ban.
For its part, the General Confederation of Beet Producers declared itself satisfied with the decision. However, she expressed concern about the harvests of other products in the years to come. Indeed, the text requires strict health guarantees concerning future harvests on the plots used for beet in 2021. Thus, onion, wheat or oats can be cultivated from 2022 when the potato will have to wait until 2023. For rapeseed and sunflower, it will be 2024.
Even if the authorization to use neonicotinoids again is tempered by strict conditions of use, there is no doubt that it was motivated by economic reasons. The financial and human stakes are considerable.
The next decision of the Council of State is expected in the coming days and will have the heavy task of establishing a precarious balance between a sector in crisis worried about its future and a biodiversity made up of pollinating insects , birds, wild mammals and water. in serious danger of pollution.
Economy and environment will once again come face to face.