French court bans sale of glyphosate-based weedkillers

PARIS — A French court has banned the sale of two weedkillers containing glyphosate produced by Swiss chemical group Syngenta because of a lack of analysis on the chemical’s potential harm to some wildlife.

“The decision on Sept. 30, 2020 by French health security agency ANSES to renew the marketing authorization for the chemical product Touchdown Systeme 4 was annulled,” according to a ruling by the administrative court of Montpellier in southern France.

“The precautionary principle was not respected” due to the lack of a complete evaluation procedure, it said.

A separate but similar decision was taken for Syngenta’s Touchdown Foret weedkiller.

Syngenta in an e-mailed response to Reuters called the ruling “disappointing” and said the products had gone through “a rigorous approval process that demonstrated safe use.”

The company reserved the right to appeal, it said.

The weedkillers covered by the ruling remained authorized pending the terms of a withdrawal procedure, such as a deadline for using the products, Syngenta added.

Glyphosate, first developed by Bayer’s Monsanto unit under the brand Roundup, has been a focus of controversy since a World Health Organization agency concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer.

President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 pledged to end glyphosate use in France within three years, but his government later said it would take into account whether other solutions existed.

The EU approval of glyphosate was extended for another year in December. The Montpellier court’s decision on Syngenta’s products followed a request by environmental association Generation Futures, which said ANSES had failed to take into account the precautionary principle and not obtained a risk assessment on non-target vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

ANSES said in an e-mailed response that it took note of the decision, without commenting further.

Syngenta and ANSES have two months to appeal the decision, a spokesperson at Generations Futures said.

Other glyphosate-based weedkillers remain authorized in France, the European Union’s biggest grain-producing country. — Reuters