French mayors threatened with legal action over ban on pesticides near schools

Five French mayors who brought in a ban on certain pesticides near schools are facing legal action by regional authorities - who say they have overstepped their powers.

French mayors threatened with legal action over ban on pesticides near schools
Photo: AFP

The five mayors from northern France, who have formed themselves into a collective, had brought in stricter controls on pesticides in their areas.

They decreed that farmers must advise the local community 48 hours in advance of any spraying with certain types of pesticide and banned it altogether within 100 metres of schools, nurseries or crèches.


French vineyards are heavy users of pesticides. Photo: AFP

France already outlaws the use of pesticides within a range of five to 50m from schools, depending on the type of treatment, but the mayors of the communes of Trélon, Anor, Moustier-en-Fagne, Wignehies and Ohain decided to implement extra restrictions.

However they have now found themselves in hot water with the regional authority, the sous-prefecture for Avesnes-sur-Helpe in north east France, close to the Belgian border.

“A mayor cannot decide to limit or ban the use of pesticides in his municipality. The authority that has the competence to do so is the prefect,” said sous-prefecture spokesman Alexander Grimaud told French newspaper La Voix du Nord.

The mayors were given two months to rescind their decree, but have refused so now face being hauled before the local administrative court.

The use of pesticides in agriculture is rapidly becoming a highly controversial issue in France, in part due to the ongoing medical mystery of the babies born without arms in rural areas.

A major investigation is ongoing into the abnormally high rates of babies born in France with either missing or deformed arms.

Although the cause is currently a mystery, the one thing that all recorded cases so far have in common is that the families were all living in rural areas.

Many believe that pesticides are the cause and there have also been cases of clusters of cancers in rural areas.

France is the third biggest user of agricultural pesticides in the world and the biggest in Europe. Around 2,500 products are used on French farms, orchards and vineyards to protect the crops from weeds, fungi and to a lesser extent insects.

Over 64 per cent of French fruit and 34 per cent of vegetables contain pesticide traces – 6 per cent of them above the maximum authorised limit – and various government drives to reduce the use of pesticides have either failed or had their deadlines extended.

Sales of the weedkiller Glysophate – which has been linked to cancer – were banned in France on January 1 this year, but farmers will be allowed to use it for another five years.

Meanwhile France late last year banned widely-used pesticide metam sodium after dozens of people in western France fell ill.

The move followed widespread pesticide protests across France, as people called for tougher restrictions in the use of pesticides by French farmers.



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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.

READ ALSO: The decades-old battle between French farmers and conservationists over bears
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