Phytopharmaceutical Use in France & Trending Stringent Regulations

by Magda Boulabiza 13 Sep. 2019

As the public grows more aware of the potential health impacts on their health that pesticides could have, some politicians they might have a role to play to speed up the legislative process. On May 18, 2019, the mayor of Langouët, France passed an order prohibiting the use of phytopharmaceutical products “at a distance of less than 150 meters from any cadastral parcel including a building used for residential or professional purposes."    

An action taken despite competencies principles

The measure created pesticide-free zones, establishing a security perimeter so that the inhabitants of his commune are not overly exposed to these chemicals. He based his decision on the precautionary principle, deciding to limit the use of such products to avoid a risk that is currently scientifically uncertain but where there are “reasonable grounds for concern about potential risks.”[1]

Following a jurisprudence from the Council of State[2] (Conseil d’Etat, i.e. the supreme court for administrative disputes), the Administrative Court of Rennes[3] suspended the order. Although it was suspended due to the mayor’s inability to take such measures, it led to a public debate on the use of pesticides and its consequences.

Government support

Elisabeth Borne, Ministry of the Ecological and Solidary Transition, confirmed that the government will be introducing a proposal to introduce a minimum distance between pesticide spreading and dwellings. Emmanuel Macron also expressed that the government wanted to introduce a nationwide change in phytopharmaceutical exposure next to dwellings and professional premises.

This followed the judiciary response from the Council of State that already for legislation that would “sufficiently protect public health and the environment” by partially cancelling a Ministerial Order on the placing on the market and use of phytopharmaceutical products and their adjuvants.[4] The public rapporteur also requested the cancellation of the decree "insofar as it did not provide for measures to protect residents of areas treated by plant protection products.”

Social changes for legislative changes

Even though the order was suspended by the Court, the national coverage it obtained inspired other mayors to take the same measures to protect their constituents—and it seems to work. Indeed, legislative changes were already obtained before with the anti-GMO law of 2014[5] that was the result of several years of stringent but illegal non-GMO orders from mayors and militancy activism of environment protection associations. [6]

What could be expected next?

Companies should be aware that there seems to be a trend towards more stringent regulation on the use and market placement of phytopharmaceutical products in France—it could potentially lead to the government protecting public health by banning the use of certain products in specific areas. For a more general ban of specific products, the movement would have to be globalized to the rest of the EU as it is at this level that the decision on whether to authorise chemicals is taken.


[1] European Commission, Communication on the Precautionary Principle, 2000

[2] Conseil d’Etat, 6ème et 5ème chambres réunies, 26/06/2019, 414931

[3] Tribunal Administratif de Rennes, 27 August 2019

[4] Conseil d’Etat, 6ème et 5ème chambres réunies, 26/06/2019, 414931

[5] Law 2014-567 of 2 June 2014 on the prohibition of the cultivation of genetically modified corn varieties

[6] Laurent Radisson, L'arrêté anti-pesticides du maire de Langouët suspendu, la réglementation nationale bientôt renforcée