France orders withdrawal of atrazine, herbicides

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 20 Oct 2001
Time: 20:06:15
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France orders withdrawal of atrazine, herbicides Reuters FRANCE: October 2, 2001

PARIS - French Farm Minister Jean Glavany last week ordered the withdrawal of atrazine and related weedkillers, saying the chemicals were building up in water supplies and threatening human health.

Glavany instructed that the products, called triazines, be withdrawn from the market by September 30, 2002, and that they not be used to make other products as of June 30, 2003. Switzerland's Syngenta AG , and privately held Makteshim of Israel and Sipcam-Oxon of Italy are the world's biggest producers of the chemicals, according to French plant protection industry group UIPP.

The group denied there were possible health problems associated with triazines in water supplies and said the withdrawal of the chemicals would deal a heavy blow to both the plant protection industry and to farmers.

UIPP estimated that withdrawing triazines and replacing them with other herbicides would add 450 million French francs ($63 million) to maize growers' operating costs.

Bernard Charlot, president of Syngenta France, said the move would not have a significant effect on his business but would likely hurt maize farmers and small-to medium-sized companies that rely on triazines for a large part of their sales.

He said Syngenta France's maize product line represents between eight and 15 percent of its turnover, and that it was difficult to gauge how much of that was related to triazines as the chemicals are sold in association with other products.

Charlot, who also serves as UIPP president, added that he hoped a compromise solution could be found that would respond to the needs of French citizens, industry groups and farmers.

A spokesman for French maize growers' group AGPM said the move smacked of politics and was designed to boost the government's image among consumers ahead of next year's parliamentary and presidential elections.

The spokesman also dismissed health concerns about triazines by saying that they were "not very dangerous" and that "kitchen salt was more toxic".


Glavany said he based his decision on evidence of a "generalised presence" of triazines in French water supplies. In recent years, authorities have banned people from drinking tap water in certain areas of the country where the triazine content exceeded recommended levels.

The minister noted that while French food safety agency AFSSA had found no risk of cancer associated with the chemicals, it had recommended not consuming water with atrazine levels that exceeded certain thresholds.

AFSSA said triazines posed a specific risk to babies and children but did not elaborate on the possible effects.

The agency recommended that babies should not be given water containing more than 0.4 micrograms per litre (mpl). For children and adults, the maximum recommended levels were 0.6 mpl and 2 mpl, respectively.

The farm ministry cited a report from French environment institute IFEN that found degraded atrazine products in 50 percent of samples taken from surface water supplies and 52 percent of samples taken from underground water supplies.

Glavany also justified his decision by saying the chemicals were becoming less effective, with certain weeds developing resistance to the products.

Triazines, which were introduced to the French market in 1962, are mostly used in the production of maize and sorghum, although they are also applied to trees and vines.

In 1999, growers applied atrazine to 80 percent of the area used to grow maize in France and all the area devoted to sorghum production, the ministry said.


Last changed: March 14, 2006