French MPs approve 'bee-killer' pesticides for sugar beet farmers


French parliamentarians on Tuesday voted in favour of giving sugar beet farmers, whose crops were diminished this year, a special derogation to use neonicotinoids, a form of pesticide, against rampant aphids and which environmentalists say disrupts bees' reproduction modes and sense of orientation.

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A majority of French MPs have voted to approve a controversial provision authorising the temporary reintroduction of banned neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide, to save beet farmers from ravaging aphids, small sap-sucking insects, reports Radio France Internationale.

The agriculture minister said “there is no alternative”, but opponents of the bill are outraged.

MPs in France's lower assembly on Tuesday came down in favour of sugar over honey.

A total of 313 were in favour, 158 against and 56 abstained in a vote over the controversial reintroduction of banned neonics to protect beet farmers' crops from sugar beet jaundice.

The derogation will last through to July 1st 2023.

In a statement, the National Union of French Beekeeping (UNAF) said the new law was "an insult to apiculture, science and the protection of living things".

The vote appeared to support the economy over biodiversity, although the minister of agriculture, Julien Denormandie, had been at pains to state the contrary during long and conflictual parliamentary debate on Monday night.

“We are all against bee-killing insecticides,” Denormandie said, “but there is currently no alternative, chemical or agronomical, which is effective enough."

Biologist Freddie-Jean Richard, a researcher at the University of Poitiers, told RFI that alternatives do exist and could be further developed.

“Ladybirds adore aphids for example, even if they cost a bit more [than insecticides]. Nettle manure is also very effective.

“There are alternatives, but sometimes there are problems developing them on a big scale because of regional constraints or intensive farming or whatever.”

Read more of this report from RFI.


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