ENVIRONMENT – It is a strange coincidence of the calendar. This Saturday, 1 September, the use of neonicotinoids, bees killing pesticides, is illegal in France (with the exception of certain exceptions that still run until 2020).
A prohibition that comes four days after the surprise dismissal of Nicolas Hulot. And although this is certainly only a consequence of a law adopted in 2016, it would never have been implemented without the former Minister of Ecological Transition.
A posthumous victory that perfectly illustrates the struggle of the former TV presenter in the government, as well as the lobbying issue raised by France Inter's former environmental activist to justify his departure.
First clash in the government
A few weeks after the election of Emmanuel Macron, we found out that the government was not considering applying the famous law of 2016. A rumor confirmed by the Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Travert, who led to the collision with Nicolas Hulot, ready to make "no concession" on this point. The first row of this government.
Logic: most environmentalists have been fighting neonicotinoids for years. In 2016, when he was president of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, the former minister had published a platform in The world urge MEPs to vote to ban these pesticides. A few hours later, Edouard Philippe decided to agree to the Minister for Ecological Transition with the ban on neonicotinoids.
The 14 months that followed saw other confrontations between Stéphane Travert and Nicolas Hulot. there were small kicks, such as the vegetarian meal proposed by Nicolas Hulot, which the Minister of Agriculture did not pick up, but also more complicated oppositions. About the ban on glyphosate, for example, where the Minister of Ecological Transition had to make concessions. Or on the General States of Food, which he boycotted the fence and a & # 39; agenda problem & # 39; claims.
In addition to these confrontations with the government and his sense of loneliness, at the moment of his resignation, Nicolas Hulot also mentioned the weight of the lobbies, their "presence in the power circles". Although he has never accused Stéphane Travert, many ecologists have regularly said that the Minister of Agriculture was "in the hands of the lobby".
During the quack on the neonicotinoids, the former Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho (and other ecologists) had denounced "a power policy of the lobby". More generally, the difficulty of banning these pesticides makes it possible to identify the weight of industrial influences in public decisions.
The ban on neonicotinoids, fighting for 20 years
In a forum that was published last May, Gérard Arnold, research director of the CNRS, gave an update on the evolution of scientific work on these pesticides, the most used in the world today. It was in 1994 that the first French beekeepers saw problems in the beehives when the Gaucho, a neonicotinoid marketed by Bayer, began to be used.
It took until 2001 before the government set up a committee of experts (including Gérard Arnold). The researchers then realized that a large number of studies that were used to validate the commercialization of these pesticides, some of which were supplied by the industrialists, were "of insufficient scientific quality".
In 2012 EFSA, the European Food Safety Agency, confirms that the toxicity of neonicotinoids has not been properly tested before it is put on the market. "The experts also show that field trials follow a single, very weak guideline, drawn up by the ICPBR," an organization that is funded by the agrochemical industry.
And it was not until April 2018 that the European Union decided to ban the three main types of neonicotinoids after a new Efsa report released two months earlier.
A scientific course with lobby & # 39; s
That scientific consensus takes time is normal. The first observations followed laboratory studies. But it must also be verified that the exposure is similar in nature, which is not so simple.
In recent years, several studies have shown a link between the use of neonicotinoids and a decrease in the population of wild bees and, on the other hand, the fact that these pesticides have an impact on wild species. of bees, even more than on semi-domestic. Others, in the laboratory but with very low doses, confirmed the impact on the bees of these pesticides.
One may, however, wonder whether it is logical that these studies only take place after a worldwide use of the product. One may also wonder whether the scientific debate was not delayed by the intense lobby that took place, especially by Bayer and Syngenta, as reported The Atlantic Ocean.
In 2012, for example, when Efsa tackled the problem, the two industrial giants sent a large number of letters to the various European Commissioners. These, made public by the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, were filled with a variety of arguments to increase the balance in favor of neonicotinoids.
Bayer again analyzed the results of the EFSA report by an "independent committee" (specialized in supporting industrialists who want to market their products). Syngenta threatened Efsa with prosecution if the planned press release was not amended to reveal the report.
It should be remembered, however, that lobbying is a fairly widespread activity and not just limited to industry. As mentioned in an interview with 20 minutes Guillaume Courty, professor of political sciences, "so far it was lobbying to bring information into space, before the decision, to let decision-makers decide in closed meetings".
But as Corporate Europe Observatory reminds us, the weight of industrial lobbies is disproportionate, overwhelming to public interest groups. Another example, quoted by Nicolas Hulot, who would have been the drop that broke the back of the camel: the presence of Thierry Coste, the influential lobbyist of the hunt, during a private meeting in which he was clearly not invited. "Imagine that the magistrates consult with one of the lawyers of the stakeholders", Guillaume Courty compares.
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