In 2018, the French government placed a ban on the use of certain pesticides that harm bees. These pesticides belong to the neonicotinoid group’s family of chemicals and are based on the chemical structure of nicotine. They were introduced in the mid-1990s and work by attacking the central nervous system of insects.
The ban on these pesticides was supported by environmentalists, but some farmers and pesticide companies contested the restriction. Specifically, sugar beet farmers opposed the ban, saying it prevented them from protecting their crops. For that reason, The Crop Protection Association brought the case to court, arguing that the French decree was incompatible with an EU regulation on the family of chemicals.
Now, two years since the ban was introduced, the EU’s top court ruled that France’s initial ban had satisfactorily demonstrated the need to curb a “serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment.” In other words, the ban on neonicotinoids has been upheld, which is a big win for bee populations. (Yay pollinators!)
With that said, the French National Assembly has approved a proposal to give an exemption to beetroot growers until 2023. These farmers claim their crops have been decimated by an infestation of green aphids, something they couldn’t protect against without the pesticides. The exemption will give the sugar beet farmers a window of time to find an alternative solution. France is Europe’s top producer of beets used to make sugar and the sector provides 46,000 jobs.