PARIS (Reuters) - France’s agriculture minister said on Wednesday he was opposed to establishing 150 meter-wide pesticide-free buffer zones around homes, a measure introduced by several French mayors that prompted the government to consider stricter spraying rules.
The use of pesticides in farming is controversial in France, the European Union’s largest crop grower. President Emmanuel Macron has promised to ban the most widely used weed-killer glyphosate after a World Health Organization agency said it probably causes cancer.
An administrative court ruled last week that the mayor of Langouet, in Brittany, had overstepped his authority by banning spraying pesticides within 150 meters of residential housing in his village in a bid to protect residents from molecules considered a health risk.
A 150m-wide buffer zone would prevent French agriculture from ensuring the country’s self-sufficiency in food and boost imports, French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume told Europe 1 radio.
“If there were to be 150-metre non-treatment areas around all houses, then that would be the biggest transformation of agricultural land ever obtained,” Guillaume said.
Asked about pesticides regulation, Macron said last month that national legislation needed to be respected but he added that he supported the Langouet mayor’s intentions and promised to tighten regulations as soon as possible.
Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said she shared the concern of the Breton mayor and promised to submit new draft regulation shortly to create a minimum distance between residential areas and pesticide spraying.
Guillaume referred to legislation adopted last year calling for use of pesticides to be agreed in local “charters” as of next year and said that some buffer zones could be just three or five meters wide.
French farmers, who have reacted angrily to the restrictions adopted by mayors, welcomed Guillaume’s comments.
“Today agriculture is not possible without crop protection products and I believe it will not be tomorrow either,” Christiane Lambert, chairwoman of France’s largest farm union FNSEA, told reporters.
“If we end up with a deal going in that direction all the better, because it is the direction of pragmatism,” she said.
Reporting by Simon Carraud and Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise