Neonicotinoids: derogations deemed illegal by the Council of State

This is a real blow for the French beet industry

Neonicotinoids: derogations deemed illegal by the Council of State

This is a real blow for the French beet industry. This Wednesday, May 3, the Council of State ruled that the exemptions granted in 2021 and 2022 in France concerning neonicotinoid insecticides "are illegal". "No derogation is indeed possible if the European Commission has formally prohibited a pesticide", underlines the highest French administrative court, referring to the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of January 19 last.

In order to protect sugar beet seeds, Parliament authorized the temporary return of two neonicotinoids at the end of 2020. Yields from this sector had been drastically reduced by jaundice, a viral disease transmitted by the green aphid. The Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau, said he was in favor of a new derogation for 2023, before the decision of the CJEU marked the end of the use of neonicotinoids everywhere in Europe and therefore in France - where they were only used in seed coating for field crops.

In 2018, the European Union banned the use in the open field, for all crops, of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid), accused of accelerating the massive decline of bee colonies. Seized by the Belgian courts after appeals against derogations taken in Belgium, the CJEU had considered that no derogation concerning seeds treated with neonicotinoids was justified, including in the exceptional circumstances invoked to protect sugar beets.

In a decision rendered on the merits on the same decrees, the Council of State renders the contrary decision on Wednesday, based on the judgment of the CJEU.

The high court recalls that according to two implementing regulations of 2018, the European Commission prohibited the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoids "except for the purpose of cultivation in permanent greenhouses", but that European law allows a temporary derogation "s 'there is a serious risk to agriculture and there is no other solution'. This explained his decisions in summary proceedings.

However, on January 19, the CJEU "clarified, for the first time, that when the European Commission has expressly prohibited, by an implementing regulation, the use of seeds treated with a given plant protection product, a Member State may not grant a temporary waiver". This explains the decision rendered on Wednesday.