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‘2022 glyphosate ban’ warning for farmers in France

Farmers have been warned to get ready for a ban on controversial weedkiller glyphosate in France from 2022.

25 September 2019
By Connexion journalist

Glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”, says the International Agency for Research on Cancer, but there have been mixed messages from ministers.

President Macron previously promised a ban but later rowed back, saying it could not be done overnight as it would “kill our agriculture”.

Farming Minister Didier Guillaume said a ban was coming – but his own officials published initial proposals for a gap of only 5-15m between sprayed fields and houses.

Environmental groups said it was too little and former ecology minister Ségolène Royal said the ministry had missed a zero off the numbers.

Now Pierre-Etienne Bisch, the government’s coordinator of the plan to reduce then end glyphosate use, is warning farmers to be ready for a ban in 2022.

He deplored the fact that glyphosate sales in France rose 12% in the 10 years to 2018.

Its use was banned in public spaces in 2017 and in private gardens this year.

Béatrice de François, mayor of Bordeaux suburb Parempuyre, called on Mr Macron to make his mind up once and for all.

She said: “Either glyphosate is a serious health hazard or it isn’t. It can’t be dangerous for private gardeners but safe for farmers.”

At the start of this year, she banned glyphosate use across the commune but was forced by the préfet to lift the ban.

In August, she reset a ban on its use within 100m of houses and public spaces. She said: “People here support the ban, they congratulate me. Food safety is a big concern, as is the environment. But the lobbies, the labs and big business are powerful, and as a result Macron hasn’t the courage of his convictions.”

She wants all agriculture worldwide to be organic but added: “I am not against farmers. This move protects their health too.”

Many other mayors have taken matters into their own hands, introducing mandatory restrictions on use near houses. Val-de-Marne introduced a department-wide ban.

Several mayors introduced “precautionary” bans, notably in Belle-Ile-En-Mer (Morbihan), where tests on some residents found levels of glyphosate in their urine. Around 1,500 of those tested filed a complaint for “endangering the lives of others and damage to the environment”.

In Ille-et-Vil­aine, the mayor of Langouët Daniel Cueff set a mandatory distance of 150m between houses and fields where pesticides are used.

A court later suspended his decree as it was not in his power. He said: “What is a mayor’s power? Can a mayor ignore the health of his residents?

“Since 2009, a European directive has called on France to take measures to protect inhabitants from pesticide spray, but nothing has been done.”

  • The Brittany urine tests proved controversial as farmers’ groups organised their own tests and found no trace of glyphosate. Fact-checkers from Libération said each group used different labs and different methods. True levels could only be found by testing a control group with both methods and cross-checking.
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