A small town in the south of France has become the first to ban pesticide use within 50 metres of residences.
The rural town of Saint-Jean, not far from Toulouse, took the step because of health concerns after a vigorous campaign by a doctor and deputy mayor, Gérard Bapt.
He believes pesticides cause a risk to health and cites a higher rate of cancers in some agricultural areas.
“Research shows that people living near areas where pesticides are used are more affected by some diseases: endocrinal hormone disruption, diabetes and obesity, hormone-dependent cancers, cancer of the blood, male and female fertility problems and birth defects,” said Dr Bapt.
The town’s authorities have also banned the application of weed killers in rainwater ditches.
In Bourdeaux, concerns are rising over pesticide use in the vineyards. An above average rate of cancers has been detected in children in one town where the school is next to a vineyard.
The Bordeaux Winegrowers’ Committee has said it will encourage members to lower the use of pesticides. Residents have formed associations to lobby for a reduction. At the same time sales of organic wines jumped by more than 15%.
Already in 2013 the French National Health and Research Institute reported that “there appears to be a link between exposure at work to pesticides and certain pathologies in adults”.
France uses more pesticides than any country in Europe save Spain.