Hundreds of farmers drove their tractors through Paris on Wednesday to amplify their demand to be allowed to use banned pesticides on sugar beets and other crops to ensure “food sovereignty” for France.
Entering the French capital through a southern gateway, the farmers’ convoy rolled to the gold-domed Invalides monument, site of Napoleon’s tomb.
The farmers were protesting what the national farming union FNSEA claims will be the disappearance of French farmers who are competing with cheaper imported products and facing multiple other challenges.
The French government decided last month to ban the use of neonicotinoids, which are chemicals used to killing infects that eat plants, following a decision by the European Court of Justice to end a dispensation granted for the class of insecticides. Farmers notably fear for their sugar beet crops.
The European Union’s executive commission wants to ensure that at least 25 per cent of agricultural land across the 27-nation bloc is reserved for organic farming, compared to 8 per cent in 2020.
“At this rate, French agriculture will disappear,” France 3, a regional television station, quoted Damien Greffin, FNSEA president for the Paris region, as saying.
Greffin noted that Napoleon’s tomb, with a large field stretching before it, was not just a practical site for tractors to gather. He said it was also symbolic because Napoleon imported sugar beets from Poland to ensure France’s sugar independence.