French court suspends two Dow pesticides over potential harm to bees

PARIS, Nov 24 (Reuters) – A French court on Friday suspended the licence for two pesticides made by Dow Chemical Co., citing potential environmental risks including harmful effects on bees.

The summary ruling by an administrative court in the southern city of Nice overturned the decision in September by France’s health and environment agency ANSES to grant a permit for the Closer and Transform crop chemicals, which contain the insecticide sulfoxaflor.

The authorization of the products angered environmental protection groups, which say that they are part of the neonicotinoid family of substances being phased out in France because of concern that they could be a factor in declining bee populations.

Friday’s summary ruling suspends the use of the products in France pending a court hearing to consider detailed arguments from the parties.

Dow Chemical, which in September completed a merger with DuPont to become DowDuPont, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

ANSES said in a statement that it had noted the ruling and would continue to examine new evidence, as requested by the government.

Pesticides have come under an increasingly intense spotlight in a divisive EU debate over whether to renew the licence for glyphosate, the widely used weedkiller.

Invoking a precautionary principle that is part of French and European Union legislation, the court in Nice said that a request by the government asking ANSES to review new evidence about sulfoxaflor showed uncertainty over potential risks.

It also said that it was unclear whether restrictions on using the substance set out by ANSES would be followed.

ANSES had based its approval on the green light given by the EU’s health regulator in 2015.

The French agency approved sulfoxaflor for use on straw cereals including wheat and some more specialised crops. But it prohibited it for crops that attract pollinating insects and for all crops during flowering periods, noting potential toxic effects for bees.

The agency said that while sulfoxaflor functioned in a similar way to neonicotinoids, it remains present in soils and plants for a much shorter time.

Generations Futures, the association that brought the case before the administrative court, welcomed Friday’s ruling and called for an end to all neonicotinoid products.

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