Member countries can ban EU-approved pesticides, decrees court
Even if they are allowed by the European Union (EU), member countries can ban pesticides provided they formally inform the European Commission (EC). The ruling, issued by Europe's highest court on 8 October, came after France banned the use of some neonicotinoid pesticides that are approved by the EU.
Neonicotinoids belong to a category of pesticides that are chemically akin to nicotine and target insects. Recently, they've come under a cloud for causing a drop in bee populations by disturbing the latter's sense of coordination, memory and manner of reproduction.
Dutch Commissioner FRANS TIMMERMANS stated before a session of the European Parliament that farmers must change tactics as far as European agricultural policy is concerned.
The 8 October ruling was followed by the UIPP (Union Des Industries De La Protection Des Plantes) or French crop protection association bringing action before France's highest administrative court i.e. Council of State.
The pesticide industry lobby sought termination of the government act saying that it was contrary to EU rules which coordinated authorization of plant protection products (PPPs) and active substances across 27 member states of the EU. The Council of State then asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) based out of Luxembourg to interpret the matter in the form of a preliminary ruling. The ECJ however batted for France reportedly directing that "Member states may take unilateral protective measures if they have previously raised concerns about an active substance with the Commission and the Commission does not adopt protective measures".
The case will now have to be disposed of by the national court or tribunal as the ECJ does not decide disputes. However, other national courts or tribunals will base their decisions on the ECJ ruling as precedent whenever a similar issue arises.
Martin Dermine, health and environment policy officer at the Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) reportedly said, "Member states often publicly hide behind the European Commission and claim only the EU level can ban a pesticide". He added that governments often feared "systematic lawsuits from the agrochemicals industry" and that this ruling confirmed that they could legally be more protective for their citizens and the environment.He said he hoped the ruling would lead to more such bans by member states of the EU.
The UIPP declined to comment saying that they preferred to do so after the verdict was finalized.