France Seeks to Cut Pesticide Use in Half

| Wed Feb. 15, 2012 7:00 AM EST
Anti-Monsanto sticker, Paris

Over in France, a farmer has successfully sued Monsanto for pesticide poisoning. The farmer claims he suffered a raft of neurological troubles after inhaling the agrochemical giant's Lasso herbicide while cleaning his sprayer in 2004. The court's ruling against Monsanto "could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides," according to Reuters.

All very interesting, but what caught my eye was this background bit toward the end of the story:

France, the EU's largest agricultural producer, is now targeting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.

Wait, France has a national policy in place to slash pesticide use within less than a decade? That's news to me. So I did a little digging and found that back in 2008, the French government rolled out a plan called Ecophyto 2018 in response to the European Union's 2006 Sustainable Use Directive, which called for all EU countries to concoct national policies on cutting pesticide use. Ecophyto sets an ambitious agenda for French agriculture: to meet the pesticide-reduction target while maintaining production levels.

And that's not all. After launching Ecophyto in 2008, the French government amended it in 2009 to add to more lofty goals, according to ENDURE, an EU-funded nonprofit that promotes integrated pest management. It's now official French policy to to expand certified-organic acreage from 2 percent of the nation's total farmland in 2009 to 20 percent by 2020; push at least half of the nation's farms to achieve "high environmental value" certification, which involves reaching certain levels of on-farm biodiversity and reduction in fertilizer use; and to withdraw 40 toxic pesticides from commercial use.

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