Top EU Court Swats Challenge to Bee-Protection Rules in France
Beekeepers and apiarists dressed up as bees demonstrate outside the Palace of Westminster in 2013 ahead of the European Commission vote on the proposal to ban bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
LUXEMBOURG (CN) — A French ban on bee-killing pesticides was upheld Thursday by the EU’s high court.
The European Court of Justice backed 2018 French legislation banning the use of neonicotinoids, which have been linked to colony collapse disorder, despite finding it more restrictive than existing EU regulations.
“After officially informing the commission of the need to take urgent action, a member state may take interim protective measures,” the Luxembourg-based court wrote in a ruling only available in French.
In July 2018, the French government passed a regulation banning the use of the pesticides: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. The use of those chemicals was already restricted by EU law under a 2013 regulation that was expanded in 2018. But the French regulations went further, banning their use outright while existing regulations allowed for their use under certain conditions.
The French Crop Protection Association, an agricultural lobbying group, filed suit at the Council of State, arguing that the French government hadn’t properly informed the EU it was planning to deviate from the EU rules.
Under rules in the 27-member political and economic union, countries must harmonize their laws to ensure common standards across the internal market. EU member states may derogate from EU law under certain circumstances, including in emergency situations.
The First Chamber of the Court of Justice sided with France’s government.
“The communication includes a clear presentation of the elements attesting, on the one hand, that these active substances are likely to constitute a serious risk for human or animal health or for the environment and, on the other hand, that this risk cannot be satisfactorily controlled without the urgent adoption of measures,” the five-judge panel wrote.
Representatives for the Crop Protection Association did not respond to a request for comment.
Scientific studies of neonicotinoids have found that they confuse bees, making them disoriented and unable to find food sources or even their way back to their hives. A study published earlier this year in the journal Science found that Europe had lost 17% of its bee population between 2000 and 2014.
This isn’t the first time the EU’s attempt to protect bees has ended up at the high court. In 2018 the court upheld the validity of the 2013 restrictions, finding the regulations justified to protect pollinators.
As the latest case returns to the French court for a final decision, France could be backtracking. French MPs voted last month to reintroduce the use of neonicotinoid insecticides to help combat damage being done to the country’s sugar beet industry by yellow disease. The infection, spread by aphids, has devastated this year’s crop.