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French farmers protest over no-go zones for pesticide

Protesting farmers are demanding the withdrawal of a new law which lays down obligatory no-pesticide zones near housing to avoid contamination.

The zones de non traitement or “zones-tampon” set minimum distances from private property, schools and watercourses.

Supporters had called for gaps of up to 150m from field boundaries with private property, but farmers – and the agriculture ministry – said it could mean up to 20% of farmland being lost, at huge cost.

There are now variable no-spray zones, depending on the chemical and crop.

There is a 20m gap if “toxic” products are used, gaps for orchards and vine­yards of 10m, and for cereals of 5m. Th­e local prefect may cut the latter gaps to 5m or 3m under certain conditions.

The protesters say the change was brought in too fast and the new rules are “incoherent”, increasing costs for French farmers compared to imported produce.

France is the biggest user of pesticides in Europe and the third in the world. Despite calls for farmers to cut pesticide use, sales grew 21% in 2018.

Polls have shown 79% of people back zones-tampon.

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