France drops plans to allow harmful sugar beet pesticide after EU court ruling

File photo showing honey bees.
File photo showing honey bees. ? Michael Macor, AP

France?has dropped plans to allow?sugar?beet?growers to use again this year a?pesticide?banned over risks to bees,?after?a?European Union?court?rejected such?exemptions, the country's agriculture minister said on Monday.


After?granting?sugar?beet?growers?in 2020 an?exemption?of up to three years to a general ban on neonicotinoid chemicals, the government had been preparing a third and final annual dispensation to cover the 2023 crop.

However, in a?ruling?published on Thursday, the?Court?of Justice of the?European Union said member states cannot offer?exemptions to the bloc's ban on crop seeds treated with neonicotinoids.

"We will not request ... a third year of?exemption?for treated?sugar?beet?seeds. It's finished," Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau told reporters?after?a meeting with representatives of the?sugar?sector.

The three-year?exemption?was aimed at protecting crops from a disease that ravaged the 2020?sugar?beet?harvest while giving the sector time to develop other effective crop-protection solutions.

The French government would cover any losses incurred by growers if the disease, known as virus yellows and transmitted by aphids, occurred this year, Fesneau said.

France?would also raise at the?EU?level the issue of imports of?sugar?and ethanol biofuel from countries not subject to neonicotinoid restrictions, he added.

Farmers and?sugar?makers have warned that the?EU?ruling?could lead to a further decline in?sugar?beet?planting and threaten the future of?sugar?factories, while anti-pesticide?associations have welcomed the?court's position as closing loop-holes in the bloc's neonicotinoid ban.


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