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(en) France, UCL AL #347 - Ecology, Ecophyto Plan: It will no longer even remain the symbol (ca, de, fr, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 17 Apr 2024 09:00:20 +0300

The French government claimed to respond to the anger of farmers by announcing the end of the ecophyto plan which aimed to reduce the use of phytosanitary products. But what was this ecophyto plan? And what can we learn from its cancellation? ---- The ecophyto 2018 plan (or Ecophyto I) is a 2008 measure which aimed to halve the use of phytosanitary products in ten years. It has been the subject of significant conflicts between, on the one hand, environmental associations and the Peasant Confederation and, on the other, the agro-industrial lobby with the FNSEA in the lead. This legislative battle was "won" by the environmentalist camp which was able to benefit from the Grenelle de l'environnement to impose its vision and objectives.

Indeed, such a reduction can only be the result of a change in the system causing phytosanitary products to lose their central place in French agriculture. This vision is radically opposed to that of the FNSEA which evoked an already "reasoned" use of pesticide and whose effects it was above all necessary to mitigate. This victory of objectives, however, came up against a wall of means. The two flagship measures are the creation of the Déphy network, a network of pilot farms which could serve as a model for the transition to zero phyto, and the plant surveillance bulletin (BSV) responsible for better informing farmers.

This first ecophyto plan was a failure with a 20% increase in the use of phytosanitary products! Armed with this lesson, the government therefore chose to implement a binding measure for its ecophyto II plan in 2015: a new market, the Certificate of Economy of Phytosanitary Products (CEPP). The idea is that each phyto supplier takes action to reduce its use in order to generate certificates which can be exchanged between structures. This measure should make it possible to reduce pesticides by half by 2025.

A total fiasco
In 2023, the indicators for pesticides are at the same level as 2009. The Egalim law, effective since 2021, has in fact removed this system by separating advice from sales. Instead, the law sought to promote agro-ecology through public markets but here too, it was a failure: only 20% of collective catering achieved the desired quality compared to the 50% displayed.

In 2024, the fiasco is total. It is difficult to draw definitive conclusions as the failure is enormous and sometimes comes down to pure incompetence. On the other hand, we can attribute this incompetence to the government's communicative approach towards ecology and explaining, in part, the lack of resources. We can also see a lack of understanding or political will in relation to the role played by agriculture: no measures taken concerning competition from international markets or distribution chains which possess economic power.

Above all, we can learn a lesson from the technical monopoly exercised by pesticides in agriculture in France. This is not an isolated subject but it is one of the pillars of the agro-industry around which it organizes its activity. The objectives of the plans then take on a symbolic character. Fighting pesticides means fighting a powerful and organized lobby in France. The next plan will likely be a failure in turn because, in such a situation, the contradictions of capitalism appear stronger than ever: it is impossible to protect both capital and our health.

Corentin (UCL Kreiz-Breizh)

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