France is the largest agricultural producer in Europe, so what it does in the field matters a lot. So when it decided in 2008 to voluntarily cut pesticide use by 50% over the next decade, that was a big deal. Sadly, it looks like things aren't progressing quite as fast as they should, with pesticide use actually going up in many places (the weather is blamed). France's Agriculture Minister, Stephane Le Foll, has announced that the timeline would be pushed to 2025, with an intermediary target of a 25% cut in pesticide use by 2020. This is quite a bit slower than the original place (25% by 2020 instead of 50% by 2018).
“France has banned some of these chemicals on sunflower and maize since 2004, and it seems productivity has not been affected – 2007 was France’s best year for yield of these crops for over a decade. Also, any economic analysis should consider the almost immeasurable value of pollination carried out by honeybees and other wild bees. Indeed, continuing to use these chemicals would risk a vital service that underpins European agriculture,” EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said.
Part of the issue is that farmers have to be trained in the best practices that are used to replace the massive use of pesticides. The government also wants to push pesticide makers to substitute other products and services, such as more targeted treatments and biological ways to control pests.
There are already 2,000 farms that are in the program, and among these pesticide use has fallen by 12% on average in 2013, a year that saw a 9% rise in total use in the country.
The government wants to increase the number of farms in the program to 3,000.