Hundreds of tractors storm the streets of Paris

Hundreds of tractors take to the streets of Paris


Several hundred tractors flocked to Paris on Wednesday for a demonstration by farmers denouncing the restrictions on the use of pesticides and other obligations weighing on their sector. 

“Nearly 500 tractors” and “more than 2000 peasants” were planned to march from the south-west of the French capital to the Esplanade des Invalides in the center, according to the first agricultural union, the FNSEA.

Trigger of the mobilization: the decision of the French government on January 23 to give up authorizing neonicotinoid insecticides for the cultivation of sugar beet, following a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union deeming it illegal any derogation.

Neonicotinoids, toxic to bees and banned since 2018, had benefited from an exemption for two years. This made it possible to apply them preventively on beet seeds to protect them from jaundice, a viral disease spread by aphids.

“As a user of neonicotinoids, I don't feel like I'm poisoning the world”, annoys Damien Greffin , farmer and union activist. “At this rate agriculture will disappear,” he adds, referring to the ban on the insecticide phosmet which, according to him, “compromises” the cultivation of cherries, or that – soon – of a weedkiller for chicory.

“We want to show the government that we cannot ban means of production without an alternative”, adds another farmer, Cyril Milard.

Third union in the sector, the Confédération paysanne did not join to protest. She deplored in a press release those who refuse “any ecological progress”. “The ambition for social progress faces the most reactionary and conservative positions here,” said the left-leaning organization.

The environmental NGO Générations Futures for its part recalled that neonicotinoids were “more toxic than the infamous (insecticide) DDT”, banned in the 1970s, denouncing practices “worthy of 1960s agriculture, not that of the 2020s”.

In recent months, there have been many grievances in the agricultural world on various subjects: farmers have gathered in small groups across the country, here to denounce the rise in their production costs due to soaring energy prices, there to demand that they store water to irrigate their crops.

Their last big mobilization dates back to November 27, 2019, when a thousand tractors carried out snail operations on the ring road surrounding Paris.

The demonstrators were already denouncing a tightening of the rules concerning the spreading of synthetic pesticides with the creation of non-treatment zones (ZNT), strips of a few meters near homes where the use of these substances is prohibited.