EU countries too flexible with exemption from ban on use of plant protection products

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJEU) has ruled in a new judgment that EU countries incorrectly grant emergency permits for the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. A few years ago, exceptions to the use ban were allowed on sugar beets to combat jaundice. 

Environmental groups complained that too many countries were evading the ban too often. They had filed lawsuits with a Belgian beekeeper against a Belgian 'exception'. According to them, exemptions have been granted improperly and without sufficient justification for several years in a row. 

Reactions in several European countries point out that the ruling is specifically about the situation in Belgium, and not about other countries. However, the EU judges have said that the European Commission must now come up with a new decision.

Various studies have shown that the extinction of bee species is almost certainly a result of the use of large amounts of neonicotinoids as crop protection agents in agriculture.

According to the EU judges, the preventive treatment of seeds, which has been prohibited since 2018, can no longer be applied exceptionally. So far, eleven EU countries have adopted such “emergency permits”. France announced at the beginning of January that it wanted to extend this derogation again, after having applied it for two consecutive years.

Since 1991, European legislation has regulated the marketing and use of pesticides, as well as the permitted amount of residues in foodstuffs. As part of the new Green Deal and from farm to fork, the European Commission aims to reduce pesticide use by half by 2030.