French sugar beet pesticide exemption halted by EU ruling

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PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) – France’s plans to allow sugar beet farmers to continue using a banned pesticide for another year have been halted by a European Union court decision excluding such exemptions.

After severe losses from crop disease in 2020, France granted sugar beet growers an up to three-year exemption to a general ban on using neonicotinoid chemicals. That exemption would not have finished until after this year’s crop.

However, in a ruling published on Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union said that member states cannot offer exemptions to the bloc’s ban on crop seeds treated with neonicotinoids, which are considered a threat to bees.

French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau wrote on Twitter that he took note of the decision.

The minister has called a meeting on Monday with sugar beet growers and sugar manufacturers such as Tereos to discuss the matter, Christian Spiegeleer, head of French sugar makers group SNFS, told Reuters.

Sugar beet growers group CGB, meanwhile, condemned the “brutality of the decision” a few weeks before spring planting.

The EU court’s ruling followed a challenge to a similar exemption for neonicotinoid use on sugar beet in Belgium.

Anti-pesticide association PAN Europe, one of the parties to have challenged Belgium’s exemption, welcomed the court decision.

“This verdict is a reminder that administrations and politicians are bound to the law, not to the interests of the pesticide industry or industrial agricultural lobbies,” Martin Dermine, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

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