Following a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union on 19 January this year, the Conseil d’État has ruled that the derogations to the use of neonicotinoids in sugar beet farming that had been temporarily granted for 2021 and 2022 are illegal. No derogations can be granted if the European Commission has formally banned a pesticide.
While neonicotinoids have been banned in France and Europe since 2018, the Government had granted temporary derogations, based on a law of 14 December 2020, for the use of two such insecticides: imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. These derogations were applied to sugar beet crops in 2021 and 20221. The purpose of the derogations, authorising seeds treated with these pesticides, was to protect crops from massive infestations of disease-carrying aphids. Several farmers', beekeepers' and environmental organisations appealed to the Conseil d’État to revoke the derogations.
European law allows a Member State to grant a temporary derogation permitting the use of a pesticide that is not approved in Europe if there is a serious risk to agriculture and if there is no other solution2. However, on 19 January this year, in response to a preliminary question referred by the Belgian Conseil d’État , the Court of Justice of the European Union clarified, for the first time, that where the European Commission has expressly prohibited the use of seeds treated with a given plant protection product by an implementing regulation, a Member State cannot grant a temporary derogation authorising the commercialisation of that product for the purpose of treating seeds or the use of seeds treated with that product3.
Such a ban had been imposed for imidacloprid and thiamethoxam in May 20184. Given this judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union, it directly follows that the derogations, granted in 2021 and 2022, permitting their use for sugar beet crops, were illegal.
The Conseil d’État, therefore, revoked them.
Read the decision (in French)
2 Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009, concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC
4 Implementing Regulations 2018/783 and 2018/785 of 29 May 2018