The European Commission was right to impose restrictions on the use of three bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the EU’s General Court ruled on Thursday.
The court upheld the 2013 restrictions on the three bee killing pesticides, rejecting two separate legal challenges by Bayer and Syngenta, makers of imidacloprid and clothianidin, and thiamethoxam respectively.
In its press statement, the court asserted that the European Union’s precautionary principle “gives precedence to the requirements relating to the protection of public health, safety and the environment over economic interests.”
Environmental group Greenpeace – which intervened in the Bayer and Syngenta cases to provide evidence and legal arguments in support of the restrictions – welcomed the decision: “The ruling sets the EU’s priorities straight – its primary duty is to protect people and nature, not company profit margins,” said Greenpeace EU food policy adviser Franziska Achterberg: “It’s an indictment against corporate bullying that should spur the Commission to act on other dangerous pesticides without fear of being challenged in court.”
The Commission had banned the use of the pesticides in 2013, as a result of a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment of those substances as regards bee health.
The Bayer group, which produces and markets imidacloprid and clothianidin in the European Union, the Syngenta group, which produces and markets thiamethoxam (and treated seeds), and the BASF group, which produces and markets fipronil, had brought proceedings before the General Court for annulment of those prohibitions and restrictions. Syngenta had also sought payment of compensation of at least EUR 367.9 million.
The Court has dismissed in their entirety the actions brought by Bayer and Syngenta in relation to the neonicotinoids clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid.
However, the Court largely upheld the action brought by BASF and annulled the measures restricting the use of the pesticide fipronil, since it says they were imposed without a prior impact assessment.
The pesticide producers are expected to appeal the ruling.
Neonicotinoids will be banned in France from 1 September 2018 onwards, with certain uses allowed until 1 July 2020. The ban covers the three chemicals already restricted at EU level, as well as acetamiprid and thiacloprid. It may also include sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone, depending on the outcome of ongoing discussions.