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How to promote farming practices that are less harmful to the environment and health? How can we encourage farmers to reduce their consumption of pesticides? There was indeed an attempt, in 2007, with the Ecophyto plan, which aimed to reduce it by half in ten years. Assessment, in 2017: an increase of 25%. So, we can wonder if there is in France a real political will to resist lobbies who have no interest in this change …
In 2007, when Jean-François Borloo launched this ambitious plan, he invited NGOs alongside the agricultural unions. François Veillerette was present. He heads Générations Futures, an NGO opposed to the use of pesticides. The activist recalls how the representatives of the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, maneuvered to add “if possible” in the sentence setting the objective of reducing the use of pesticides at 50%: “It meant that already there was a desire to find loopholes to this goal before even having started to implement it.”
A single binding measure … canceled twice
Five years later, halfway through, the Ministry of Agriculture publishes figures – bad. No decrease in the use of phytosanitary products, but an increase of 5%. In the National Assembly, a deputy worries. Dominique Potier is also a farmer. For him, it is not enough to encourage good practices; the sellers of chemicals should be punished. He proposes to give phytosanitary companies five years to reduce their sales by 25%, and to introduce a penalty for those who have not succeeded.
In 2014, the MP believed he had obtained the support of the agricultural world. The measure is voted … and canceled after an appeal to the Council of State, filed by the lobbies of manufacturers and sellers of pesticides. He succeeded in having it ironed in 2017. But this time, the government is canceling the planned sanctions. “It was the only binding measure in the Ecophyto II plan”, laments Dominique Potier, who points “an inability of the public authority to keep its word”.
Excerpt from “Will farmers save the planet?”, A document to see in “Exhibits” March 25, 2020.