After two weeks of widespread strikes and protests by members of France’s farming community, the roadblocks and downing of tools finally seems to be coming to an end on the back of a decision to pause a ban on pesticides and offer the country’s agricultural industry more financial support.
France’s farmers have come out of talks with French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau on top, and the vast majority have headed back to work with the promise of more investment and financial support for the cash-strapped and pressurised sector.
One of the key reasons for the strikes, according to the farmers and unions involved, had been that they are struggling in the face of cheaper goods being imported into France from countries that have less strict environmental rules.
They argued that they are the victims of over regulation and simply don’t have access to affordable and more ecological alternatives to the pesticides and other chemicals banned under the Ecophyto 2030 scheme that had been initiated with the goal of reducing pesticide use in France by 50% by 2030.
In response, the French government has agreed to scrap, at least for the time being, some of the bans that had been specified under the Ecophyto 2030 strategy.
“We are going to put it on pause in order to rework a certain number of aspects and to simplify it,” said Fesneau.
INCREASED RISKS OF ILLNESS AND DEATH
Pesticides are a major source of pollution, including water contamination and soil degradation, and are known to be harmful to human and animal life. Illnesses linked to pesticides include cancer, as well as a variety of heart, respiratory and neurological diseases, according to reports put out by the European Environment Agency, yet the use of pesticides is still prevalent across the continent.
The decision by the French government to walk back on its pledge to prohibit the use of certain pesticide has stirred up strong feelings amongst supporters of stricter environmental regulations.
Among the loudest voices is that of Marie Toussaint, a Green party member of the European Parliament, who called it “a poisoned chalice for the farmers” in an interview on RMC Radio.
Meanwhile, Clementine Autain, a left-leaning La France Insoumise party member, described the decision as “total madness from an environmental point of view”, adding that it is “not in the interest of most farmers, and certainly not in the interest of French people’s health”.
Greenpeace has also criticised the move by weighing in on social media to call it a “major and dangerous setback”.
Photo source: Erich Westendarp, Pixabay