In its Article 125, the Act of 8 August 2016 "for the restoration of biodiversity, nature and landscapes" provides for a ban on the use of plant protection products containing active substances from the neonicotinoid class and of seeds treated with these products, with effect from 1 September 2018. The Act also stipulates that waivers may be granted until 1 July 2020 on the basis of an assessment prepared by ANSES that compares the benefits and risks associated with the uses of these products with those of substitute products or alternative methods. The Act stipulates that this assessment should examine the impact on the environment, in particular on pollinators, on public health and on agricultural activity.
In this context, in March 2016, ANSES received a formal request from the Ministry of Agriculture to conduct an assessment weighing up the risks and benefits of plant protection preparations containing neonicotinoids, compared with their chemical and non-chemical alternatives.
This request asked multiple questions, which cover three separate fields: agronomy (impact of pests – identification, effectiveness, operationality of alternatives), the assessment of the risks to human health and the environment, and the assessment of the impact on agricultural activity.
There is no validated methodology currently available for identifying these alternatives and enabling their effectiveness and operationality to be compared with those of the neonicotinoids. Today, the Agency is publishing a methodology able to answer this question, which has been validated on a case study: the use of neonicotinoids on the grapevine leafhopper.
The methodology adopted has three objectives: (i) to assess the harmfulness of the target organisms for crops, (ii) to identify the alternative control methods for crop protection, (iii) to assess the effectiveness of the methods identified.
The Agency began by listing products containing neonicotinoids available to treat the grapevine leafhopper, then identified the alternatives to these treatments, whether they were already in use or still undergoing research. Hearings were conducted to supplement these data.
The analysis grid adopted can be used to consistently and systematically compare alternative control methods for each of the neonicotinoid uses on the basis of four criteria: the effectiveness, operationality, sustainability and practicality of each method considered.
ANSES is continuing its work, which will lead to this methodology being applied to all the uses of neonicotinoids, and to the impacts of all the identified alternatives being assessed on human health, the environment (pollinators in particular) and agricultural activity.
Concerning the impact of neonicotinoids on human health, in April 2016 ANSES also received a formal request from the ministries responsible for health, the environment and biodiversity, to "conduct an in-depth expert appraisal of the effects on human health of all the neonicotinoid substances currently authorised at national level as either plant protection or biocidal products".
The results of this work will be published by the end of 2017.