The French National Assembly, the lower house of the country’s parliament, has voted to ban use of all neonicotinoid insecticides as of September 1, 2018.
French MPs narrowly passed a proposal for an outright ban on neonicotinoids as part of a draft biodiversity bill.
The bill is still in draft form and is due to go back to the French Senate for further review before the Assembly takes a final vote on the matter, probably in the summer.
In a statement, the French Government said the ban was ‘a responsible solution that provides the necessary time to assess alternatives’, in terms of their pest control effectiveness and health and environmental impacts, particularly on bees.
An ‘overnight’ ban as of January 1, 2017 on all neonicotinoid insecticides would have required the use of other insecticides that have not been proven to be less toxic for the environment and bees, the statement continued.
French farms minister, Stéphane Le Foll said France would call on the EU’s executive to ensure these restrictions applied to the whole of the EU.
In the UK, Mark Stevens, lead scientist for the sugar beet research and advisory organisation the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) said the consequences of such a ban on sugar beet production would be enormous.
Neonicotinoid active substances are widely used in sugar beet seed treatments for control of aphids responsible for transmitting sugar beet disease virus yellows and are also important in control of leaf miner, which has been an increasing pest problem in beet crops in recent seasons.
The BBRO has already put in place research projects seeking alternative strategies to neonicotinoid use in sugar beet, including developing varieties with improved resistance to pests and disease, but these would take time to reach commercial use, Dr Stevens added.
A ban on use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on oilseed rape came into effect in December 2013. In addition to their use in sugar beet, neonicotinoid active substances remain available for use in cereal seed treatments and as foliar sprays for control of pollen beetle in oilseed rape and aphids in a range of crops.