After a year of decline, a significant rebound in pesticide sales in 2020

After a year of decline, a year of increase is looming. The latest pesticide use figures were communicated on Monday 22 November to the members of the steering and monitoring committee of the Ecophyto plan, aimed at monitoring and measuring the evolution of the use of phytosanitary products in the French countryside. The elements presented confirm preliminary data already communicated, indicating a sharp reduction in the intensity of use of these products in 2019, compared to the previous year. But the figures available for the year 2020 point to a significant rebound.

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First lesson: the consolidated data for the year 2019 confirm a sharp drop in the use of “phytos” compared to the previous year. The number of unit doses (NODU), the benchmark indicator of the intensity of pesticide use, fell by 37% in 2019 compared to the previous year. This had been marked by massive purchases, motivated by the anticipation of an increase in taxes on the sales of these products. However, on a three-year average, the NODU increased by around 15% between the periods 2009-2011 and 2017-2019.

The NODU for the year 2020 was not presented during the meeting, only the gross quantities sold were available. These are a less precise indicator of the reality of the use of pesticides, because it does not include the surfaces and the nature of the crops treated, but it does offer an indication of the evolution. This is on the rise: in 2020, the quantities of active substances sold, without counting the products authorized in organic farming, increased by 23% compared to 2019.

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The most dangerous substances stagnate

A sharp increase in the tonnages of herbicides sold is driving the trend: the quantities of glyphosate sold in 2020 notably jumped by 42% compared to the previous year. They stand at over 8,600 tonnes, a level comparable to what has been recorded for ten years. Another controversial herbicide, prosulfocarb, is on the rise. It is denounced by organic farmers because of its tendency to drift over great distances and damage neighboring crops for treatments. However, the substances deemed to be the most dangerous, known as CMR1 (proven or suspected carcinogens, mutagens or reprotoxic), are on the decline. CMR2 (suspected carcinogens, mutagens or reprotoxic) stagnated between 2019 and 2020.

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For environmental protection associations, this meeting of the Ecophyto plan steering and monitoring committee, the first held since January 2020, is disappointing. The France Nature Environment (FNE) federation says ” angry “ in front of the results presented. For its part, the Générations futures association notes the absence, in the points discussed, of the measures planned to respond to the decision of the Council of State of July 26, which orders the State to better protect the neighboring populations from spraying.

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After a year of decline, a significant rebound in pesticide sales in 2020