Five French environment charities sue state over pesticide use

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Five French environmental charities are suing the French state for its alleged negligence in regulating the use of pesticides, with a first court audience set to take place on Thursday.

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The five organisations have accused the state of being indirectly responsible for the sharp decline in insect, bird and other animal populations which an increasing body of scientific research shows is linked to pesticide use and intensive farming.

Similar action against the French state for failing to prevent air pollution or respect its own climate change targets have been successful in recent years, with environmental groups turning to legal activism across Europe to hold governments to account.

In its complaint, the five French groups say the state has failed “with the implementation of procedures to evaluate the risks and authorizations for the commercialization of pesticides” which have been used in an “excessive” way by the farming sector.

They cite figures showing that insect populations have fallen by 75 percent and wild birds by 30 percent in France over the last 30 years.

“As the main cause of this collapse, pesticides are authorized today after an incomplete evaluation procedure which does not enable the products responsible for the decline in insects, birds and the rest of our biodiversity to be identified or banned,” the complaint says.

The case is set to be heard in an administrative court in Paris on Thursday and has been dubbed “Justice for the Living” by the complainants, the NGOs Pollinis, Notre Affaire a tous, the National Association for the Protection of Water and Rivers, Biodiversite sous nos pieds, and ASPAS.

The French state, represented by the agriculture ministry, said in its written deposition to the court that the European Union was responsible for regulating pesticides and that EU law “takes defending the environment into account.”

It denied that two previous national roadmaps for reducing pesticide use since 2007, contained in plans known as Ecophyto 1 and 2, were legally binding.

The government’s position has been backed by industry lobby group Phyteis, which says that EU regulations are “some of the strictest in the world” and that there are many factors to explain the decline in insect and bird populations.

Responsible use of pesticides helped provide food security for the country and its citizens, it argues.

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