French mayors impose stricter rules for pesticides on farms

Ten communes have introduced new local regulations against pesticide use

8 March 2021
A farmer spraying chemicals on a field. French mayors ban use of pesticides on farms under local lawOver 100 mayors have tried to enforce local rules restricting pesticide use since 2019
By Joanna York

This article was amended on March 9, 2021. The headline and summary were changed on the grounds of improved accuracy for our readership. 

Mayors in 10 communes have introduced new regulations against pesticide use under local laws against the disposing of dangerous waste and neighbourhood disturbance.

Mayors in Arcueil, Bagneux, Cachan, Gennevilliers, L’île-Saint-Denis, Malakoff, Montfermeil, Nanterre, Savigny-le-Temple and Sceaux - all communes in Ile-de-France - introduced the new decree on March 3.

The new decree has three articles:

  • First, farmers who use pesticides should be responsible for disposing of waste containing traces of the chemicals they use.
  • Second, farmers cannot use pesticides if they cannot guarantee that chemicals will not spread onto neighbouring land.
  • And third, mayors and members of the collective are authorised to state when breaches of these rules have taken place.

President of the Collectif des maires anti-pesticides, and deputy mayor of Sceaux, Florence Presson said a template of the decree “is available to all communes who want to act in the same way” on the collective’s website

New rule leverages local powers

It follows a ruling by the French legal authority le Conseil d’Etat at the end of 2020 that mayors do not have the authority to ban pesticides in their communes.

It said such decisions could only be made at a national level by the state.

Read more: Local anti-pesticide laws not allowed in France

But the mayors say they are entitled to introduce the new decrees under a European Commission rule which defines waste from pesticides as “dangerous”.

They have also taken inspiration from a similar decree introduced on January 11 in La Montagne, a commune with 6,200 inhabitants in Loire-Atlantique. 

Mayor of La Montagne Fabien Gracia said: “The decree comes directly under the authority of the mayor’s office, notably waste management and neighbourhood disturbance.

“The dispersion of pesticides must be controlled so that there is no question of products spreading to people who haven’t asked for them. 

“Banning this decree would be like saying a neighbour who paints his wall and also puts paint on my wall is not responsible for his actions.”

Grenoble introduces pesticide rule 

Grenoble, in southeast France, has also recently updated local rules on pesticide use, following a 2019 decree which banned the use of pesticides on land in the commune.

Following the decision from the Conseil d’Etat, local authorities updated the decree on February 22 to say that, as in La Montagne, pesticides were now strictly subject to rules on waste management and neighbourhood disturbance. 

Mayor Éric Piolle said: “Substances from pesticides end up in water, gardens and houses, and people’s lungs… those who use pesticides must be responsible for controlling and getting rid of them.” 

Negative response from authorities

Ecologists have even suggested that mayors are invoking a constitutional right to protect citizens from pesticides.

Daniel Ibanez from ecological group les Amis de la Terre said that, as outlined in the French constitution: “Freedom is the power to do anything that does not harm another person, such as leaving waste on a neighbour’s property. 

 “This decree aims to protect people.”

But prefectorial authorities in Loire-Atlantique did not agree. 

The prefecture addressed a letter to the mayor of La Montagne asking him to withdraw the decree within 48 hours.

It said that pesticides were products that had been created with “a specific goal” which disqualified them from the category of waste products.

But the mayor has not withdrawn the decree and will attend an administrative tribunal to settle the case.

Over 100 mayors have tried to enforce local rules restricting pesticide use since 2019. 

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