Are goods being imported into Europe “which would not have the right to be produced there”?

With his Spanish and Austrian counterparts, the French Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie pleads for the EU to play a leading role in order to redefine “the rules of international trade”. This is the subject of a tribune signed in Le Figaro and that the government representative relayed to his subscribers on social networks. “Who can understand that we are importing products into Europe that would not have the right to be produced there?”, he asks. “It’s against the environment and it’s destroying our agriculture.”

The example of Canadian lentils

What is Julien Denormandie referring to when he talks about the inconsistent trade rules from which Europe suffers? In the rostrum that he co-signs, the minister mentions “the perpetual raising of agricultural production standards in Europe, without taking into account the environmental issues in imported agricultural products”. This one “calls into question the very effectiveness of its policies”, can we read. However, no example is provided to support this point.

What products is he talking about? Solicited by LCI, the minister’s entourage provides some details. It is, we are told, to imitate what has “already and done with growth hormones”, and to apply it in particular to “growth antibiotics which are used elsewhere and which we no longer use” for breeding. With regard to growers more specifically, the Canada lentil is taken as an example, a product often referred to as “school case”.

On March 26, the Veblen Institute, the Think Tank of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and the bovine interprofession Interbev co-signed a report entitled Globalization: How to protect farmers and the environment? A document which advocated in particular for the establishment of what are called “mirror clauses” in agriculture, making it possible to avoid competition and to define common standards for imported and exported products. The Canadian lens was then put forward, farmers across the Atlantic being in particular authorized to use products such as Sencor.

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This herbicide, “particularly effective in destroying lens competitors”, is not allowed in the EU. And for good reason, indicate the three organizations, “its active ingredient, metribuzin, is a herbicidal substance from the triazine family, whose persistent and toxic nature for the environment has led to questioning the renewal of its marketing authorization”.

France intends to weigh in 2022

On the side of the ministry, we also take the example of Turkish cherries. Ankara allows the use of a controversial insecticide, dimethoate, on its soil. However, the latter makes run “unacceptable health risks for operators applying the product”, indicated a few years ago Françoise Weber, Deputy Director General of the National Health Security Agency (ANSES). Thus justifying the ban of this product in France. Not affected by these standards, Turkish cherries can be imported without restrictions, then sold on stalls or used for processed products.

The government, by wishing for a harmonization of the standards in force and their raising on a global scale, is therefore echoing associations campaigning for the defense of the environment. It is also aimed at producers, who may be penalized by an additional cost linked to compliance with stricter standards. Anyway, it will be a subject carried by France in 2022, we are assured on the side of the Ministry of Agriculture.

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It should be remembered that our country will take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU from January 1, 2022, for six months. The possibility of “put this central subject on the European agenda”, we entrust to LCI. “Not an easy task”, recognizes the entourage of Julien Denormandie, but a rare opportunity “to take everyone on board with us” to change the rules that currently govern free trade on a global scale.

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