Paris (AFP)

The French Constitutional Council has "for the first time" privileged the protection of the environment, by validating Friday the ban on production in France and export of plant protection products containing substances banned by the EU.

The ban in 2022 on "production, storage and sale of plant protection products" containing substances prohibited by the EU and intended for third countries was contained in the Agriculture and Food Law (Egalim), promulgated on 30 October 2018.

The Union of Plant Protection Industries (UIPP, companies producing pesticides), joined by the French Union of seed companies, had tabled in November 2019 a priority question of constitutionality (QPC), arguing that "the ban on export (...) was, by the gravity of its consequences for the producing or exporting companies, contrary to the freedom to undertake ".

By this decision, the Constitutional Council affirms, "for the first time", that it is up to the legislator to reconcile "the objectives of constitutional value, protection of the environment and protection of health with the exercise of freedom undertaking ".

He therefore judges that "the legislator is justified in taking into account the effects that activities carried out in France can have on the environment abroad".

- Unilateral decision -

"We regret this unilateral decision, because we see that we are the only country in the world to have regulations which now prohibit the manufacture and export of unauthorized products to countries outside the European Union", a reacted to AFP Jean-Pierre Chevallier, lawyer for the UIPP.

"The other member states will continue to manufacture and export these unlicensed products, which means that it will have a disastrous impact on the 2,700 jobs affected directly and indirectly," he added.

The UIPP specifies in a press release that it "studies the possible legal ways".

Environmental protection associations hailed a victory.

"We are very happy because, for us, it is important not to do to others what we refuse to do on our territory," said Sophie Bardet, lawyer at France Nature Environment (FNH). ), who had filed observations in this case before the Constitutional Council.

- "Historic step forward" -

For the association, this decision allows to bring a "little stone to the building for the protection of health and the environment outside of France", because it means that these products "can no longer be produced in France and exported to foreign countries, like atrazine for example, which is always found in water even if it is prohibited ".

"We are perhaps witnessing a decisive turning point in the hierarchy of rights. For once, ecology and life outweigh the search for profits and the interest of industrialists", commented Jean-François Julliard, boss from Greenpeace France, in a tweet Friday morning.

Same enthusiasm from the director of the association Generations Futures, François Veillerette, who shouts "Victoire!", In a tweet, while Matthieu Orphelin (Liberty and territory deputy, close to the former minister of ecological transition Nicolas Hulot) salutes "A historic step forward!", Again on Twitter.

"For years the decisions on @Conseil_constit it was always THE REVERSE! (It was a question of continuing to produce ultra toxic pesticides for export)", assures for his part Cécile Duflot, general manager of Oxfam France .

© 2020 AFP