The law on biodiversity adopted on August 9, 2016 in France, included, for the first time in the world, the prohibition of the use of plant protection products based on neonicitinoids. So, at the beginning of 2018, where are we with the application of this ban?

This prohibition now exists in Article L 253-8, supplemented by the Biodiversity Act, as follows: "II. The use of plant protection products containing an active substance or substances of the neonicotinoid family and seeds treated with such products shall be prohibited from 1 September 2018. Derogations from the prohibition referred to in the first paragraph of this II may be granted until 1 July 2020 by joint order of the Ministers for Agriculture, the Environment and Health. The order referred to in the second paragraph of this II shall be adopted on the basis of a report drawn up by the Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l'alimentation, de l'environnement et du travail comparing the benefits and risks associated with the use of plant protection products containing active substances of the neonicotinoid family authorised in France with those associated with the use of substitute products or alternative methods available. This assessment shall cover the impact on the environment, in particular on pollinators, on public health and on agricultural activity (...)".

We can deduce from these provisions that in principle neonicotinoids are prohibited from September 1, 2018, that derogations issued by interministerial decree on the basis of an opinion of the ANSES will be possible until July 2020. This could perpetuate the use of these products even though numerous studies already carried out at the time the law was adopted demonstrated the impact of these pesticides on biodiversity, pollinators and bees in particular

Since 2016, scientific evidence of the acute toxicity of neonicotinoids has continued to accumulate. Recently, at the highest European level, EFSA recognised that these pesticides pose a high risk to domestic and wild bees. As for the situation of pollinators, it is more alarming than ever: in 2017, a German study revealed that the flying biomass has fallen by 80% in 25 years. A real collapse of the insect population in Europe is under way, even though insects are at the base of the ecosystems and food chains of many species.

There is an urgent need to ban neonicotinoids immediately. Yet attempts to challenge or circumvent the law have emerged. One of them failed this autumn thanks to the action of beekeepers and environmental organisations: France had authorised sulphoxaflor, an insecticide of the neonicotinoid family, and the administrative judge suspended the authorisation, citing the precautionary principle.

At European level in 2013, it was decided to partially ban the use of three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin) for seed treatments of certain crops and for sprays on plants attractive to bees.

Since 2013, numerous studies have confirmed the very long persistence of these pesticides in soils, their widespread environmental contamination, and their impacts on biodiversity. At the end of February, EFSA again concluded that these pesticides posed a very high risk to domestic and wild bees.

The European Commission is today proposing that the Member States extend the ban on these three molecules to all uses in the field. The Member States' vote on this proposal on 22 March was unacceptably postponed, provoking outrage among many European scientists and parliamentarians.