France launches national consultation on pesticide buffer zones

Pascal Rossignol, REUTERS | A farmer sprays weed killer to treat his field in Sancourt, near Cambrai, on March 18, 2016.

The French government has launched a nationwide consultation on the implementation of pesticide-free buffer zones around homes, days after a court ruled that mayors did not have the power to implement their own.


The three-week online consultation, which opened on Monday, will inform new nation-wide regulations to create a minimum distance between residential areas and pesticide spraying.

The government has suggested a minimum distance of 5 metres for low-lying crops such as cereals and one of 10 metres for higher ones, including vines and fruit.

The proposals are a far cry from the 150-metre-wide buffer zone introduced by several mayors this summer, which the government opposed.

An administrative court ruled last week that the mayor of Langouet, in Brittany, had overstepped his authority by banning spraying pesticides within 150 metres of residential housing in his village in a bid to protect residents from molecules considered a health risk.

Such a buffer zone would prevent French agriculture from ensuring the country’s self-sufficiency in food and boost imports, Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume told local media last week.

>> The pesticide generation: children on the front line

The use of pesticides in farming is a deeply divisive issue in France, the European Union’s largest crop grower.

President Emmanuel Macron has promised to ban the most widely used weed-killer glyphosate, which has been linked to cancer, though his government is yet to implement a ban.

Asked about the buffer zones, Macron said last month that national legislation needed to be respected. But he added that he supported the Langouet mayor’s intentions and promised to tighten regulations as soon as possible.


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