PARIS – France’s health and environment agency announced restrictions on the use of the weedkiller glyphosate in farming but stopped short of a blanket ban due to a lack of viable alternatives in some cases.
The new rules set out by ANSES are part of a push by the French government to phase out glyphosate by 2021 and reflects a global debate about the safety of glyphosate, first developed by Bayer’s Monsanto unit under the brand Roundup.
The product has been under fire since a World Health Organization agency concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer, an assessment rejected by other scientific bodies and by Bayer, which has faced a series of U.S. lawsuits.
French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 pledged to end glyphosate use in France within three years, but his government later said it would take into account whether other solutions existed.
In a decision on the main farming and forestry uses of glyphosate, regulator ANSES said the weedkiller would no longer be used in alleys between vines and fruit trees, or in crop fields that are plowed.
Glyphosate would still be allowed under vines and trees where mechanical weeding was impractical or costly, and would also be permitted on crop farms that avoid ploughing to preserve soil fertility, ANSES said in a statement.
But the maximum amount of glyphosate authorized per year would be reduced by 60% for orchards and crop fields, and 80% for vineyards, it said.
The stricter conditions are to apply within six months for glyphosate products re-approved by ANSES, it added.
ANSES has already withdrawn dozens of glyphosate-based weedkillers from the market in recent years.
Macron’s government has also been wrestling with the use of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, seen as a risk to honeybees.
Faced with insect damage to sugar beet, the government is proposing an exemption for sugar crops from a ban on neonicotinoids.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise