derogations to expansion distances declared unconstitutional

The method of drawing up local statutes to reduce safety distances between homes and pesticide spread areas is contrary to the Constitution, the Constitutional Council ruled on Friday, giving reasons to environmental NGOs.

These letters of commitment drawn up at the departmental level “after consultation with the people or their representatives” who live near the areas in question, do not comply with the norms of the Environmental Charter included in the preamble to the Constitution, which provides for citizens in general. . consultation for any decision that may have a significant impact on the environment, considers the Council.

Months of controversy

After several months of controversy, in December 2019 the government finally set the minimum distances to be observed between the areas where phytosanitary products are spread and homes: five meters for so-called low crops such as vegetables and cereals and ten meters for crops. tall trees, fruit trees or vines.

But the decree also provided for exemptions by reducing these distances to three meters for tall crops and five for short ones, within the framework of the “departmental commitment letters” proposed by the users of phytosanitary products and validated by the prefects after being presented. With public consultation. . Letters that provide, in particular, that the farmer use equipment that limits drift, that is, the deposit outside the treated areas.

Many environmental associations, including Générations Futures and France Nature Environnement, seized the Council of State in 2020, denouncing letters that they claimed did not sufficiently protect local residents.

Mayors sling

On January 4, the Council of State finally referred to the Constitutional Council a “priority question of constitutionality” on this issue.

It is the method of elaboration of these statutes that the Constitutional Council annulled on Friday.

This is a new twist on a case that has been controversial for several years.

In June 2019, the State Council had already ruled that a 2017 decree regulating the use of phytosanitary products did not sufficiently protect the health of residents or the environment, forcing the State to review its copy.

Hence the new measures taken at the end of 2019 in a context of rebellion by mayors and local authorities that had multiplied the orders that limited or prohibited the use of pesticides in their territory. In this part of the story, the Council of State finally ruled in late 2020 that mayors did not have the power to take such prohibition orders, the regulation of disputed products fell under the prerogatives of the State.

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