France suspends use of popular pesticide after dozens fall ill

The French government on Friday ordered a three-month ban of a widely used pesticide after dozens of people, many of them farm workers, fell ill in western France in recent weeks.

France suspends use of popular pesticide after dozens fall ill
Photo: AFP
The move came after metam sodium was suspected when victims reported burning eyes and respiratory difficulties near Angers, an area which produces huge amounts of lamb's lettuce, also known as cornsalad.
The salad green is popular on French and European tables, and producers often spread metam sodium powder on the ground to protect the plants against a wide range of insects.
But the product, one of the most widely used pesticides in the US and Europe, is considered a “probable human carcinogen” by the US Environmental Protection Agency and is not meant to be applied directly to plants.
There have been at least three outbreaks of illness in the Maine-et-Loire department since September 28, possibly because the product was improperly applied on land that was too dry during a period of unseasonably warm weather, officials said.
Of the 61 reported cases, 17 people had to be briefly hospitalised, prompting local authorities to suspend metam sodium use earlier this month.
The national ban “is a wise decision for the health of our farm workers and citizens,” local lawmakers in President Emmanuel Macron's LREM party said in a 
“We now need to help producers to quickly roll out existing alternatives” to the pesticide, they said.
Metam sodium, sold under brand names including Vapam and Sectagon, is authorised in the EU until 2022, when it will come up for review by regulators.

Member comments

  1. A pesticide is indiscriminate. It kills beneficial bugs, that eat the pests, as well as the good ones.
    Thank goodness that I grow most of my own vegetables and those I don’t, I by bio wherever possible.
    One thing is for certain. I won’t be buying lamb`s lettuce.

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French hunter kills bear that bit him

A 70-year-old hunter killed a bear in southwest France Saturday after it attacked and seriously wounded him, local officials said.

A brown bear is pictured in the semi-wildlife animal park of Les Angles, southwestern France.
Brown bears had nearly disappeared in France until the country began a reintroduction programme, importing them from Slovenia. AFP PHOTO / RAYMOND ROIG

The female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, bit him as he was hunting in the Seix region of Ariege, a source close to the case said.

Rescued by the local gendarmerie, he was transported to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Toulouse with a wound to his leg at the level of his femoral artery, officials at the prefecture in Ariege said.

One source close to the case said he was in a serious condition.

The hunter told local officials he had been out with a group of other hunters on the trail of a boar, when the female bear, who was travelling with her cubs, attacked him.

After being wounded, the hunter shot the bear twice, killing it.

The local gendarme unit was called out to rescue him at around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT). They discovered the body of the bear a few metres from where they had found the hunter.

An investigation has been opened into the incident, the prefecture in Ariege said.

One local official told AFP on Saturday: “This is really what we feared.”

“Today, you can really see that cohabitation is complicated,” said Christine Tequi, president of the Ariege department council.

The brown bear had nearly disappeared in this part of the world when France began a programme of reintroducing them, importing them from Slovenia.

Today, there are around sixty of them in the Pyrenees range, leading to increasing tensions with local farmers, because of the threat they pose to their livestock.

In 2020, three bears were illegally killed in the Pyrenees: two of them in Spain and one in France. The French government has committed to replacing any bear killed by a man.

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