Decision

Decision no. 2019-823 QPC of 31 January 2020

Union des industries de la protection des plantes [Prohibition of the production, storage, and transport of certain plant protection products]

On 7 November 2019, the Constitutional Council, in the conditions provided for by Article 61-1 of the Constitution, received an application for a priority preliminary ruling on the issue of constitutionality raised by the Conseil d'État (decision no. 433460 of the same date). This application was made on behalf of the Union des industries de la protection des plantes association by SCP Gadiou - Chevallier, Attorney for the Conseil d'État and for the Cour de Cassation. It was registered by the general secretariat of the Constitutional Council under no. 2019-823 QPC. It relates to the conformity with rights and freedoms that the Constitution guarantees in paragraph IV of Article L. 253-8 of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code, in its formulation resulting from Act No. 2018-938 of 30 October 2018 for the balance of trade relations in the agriculture and food sector, and for food that is healthy, sustainable, and accessible to all.
Having regard to the following texts:

  • the Constitution;
  • Ordinance No. 58-1067 of 7 November 1958, constituting an institutional act on the Constitutional Council;
  • Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council of 21 October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC;
  • the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code;
  • Act No. 2018-938 of 30 October 2018 for the balance of trade relations in the agriculture and food sector, and for food that is healthy, sustainable, and accessible to all;
  • the Regulation of 4 February 2010 as to the procedure applicable before the Constitutional Council with respect to applications for a priority preliminary ruling on the issue of constitutionality;
    Having regard to the following documents:
  • the observations of intervenors of the France Nature Environnement association, registered on 14 November 2019;
  • the observations on behalf of the applicant by SCP Gadiou - Chevallier, registered on 26 November 2019;
  • the observations of the Prime Minister, registered on 29 November 2019;
  • the observations of intervenors on behalf of the Union française des semenciers association, by SCP Colin - Stoclet, Attorney at the Conseil d'État and at the Cour de Cassation, registered on the same date;
  • the second observations on behalf of the applicant by SCP Gadiou - Chevallier, registered on 16 December 2019;
  • the second observations of the France Nature Environnement association, registered on the same date;
  • the additional documents produced and appended to the case files;
    After having heard Jean-Pierre Chevallier, Attorney for the Conseil d'État and for the Cour de Cassation, on behalf of the applicant, Benoist Busson, Attorney at the Paris Bar, on behalf of the France Nature Environnement association, Bertrand Colin, Attorney for the Conseil d'État and for the Cour de Cassation, on behalf of the Union française des semenciers association, and Philippe Blanc, appointed by the Prime Minister, at the public hearing of 21 January 2020;
    And after having heard the rapporteur;
    THE CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL DECIDED THAT:
  1. Paragraph IV of Article L. 253-8 of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code, in its formulation resulting from the aforementioned Act of 30 October 2018, stipulates:
    “As of 1 January 2022, the production, storage, and transport of plant protection products that contain active substances that have not been approved for reasons related to the protection of human or animal health or the environment, as provided for in the aforementioned Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council of 21 October 2009, are prohibited, subject to compliance with the rules of the World Trade Organization.”
  2. According to the applicant, joined by one of the intervenors, the prohibition of export, put in place by these provisions, of certain plant protection products containing active substances that are not approved by the European Union, due to the seriousness of the consequences for the producing or exporting companies, would be contrary to the right of free enterprise. It esteems that in this respect, such a prohibition would not be related to the environmental and health protection objective in that the importing countries that allow these products will not discontinue using them, as they can purchase them from the foreign-based competitors of the companies based in France.
  3. The right of free enterprise is derived from Article 4 of the Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 1789.
  4. According to the preamble of the Charter for the Environment: “the future and very existence of mankind are inextricably linked with its natural environment... the environment is the common heritage of all mankind... care must be taken to safeguard the environment along with the other fundamental interests of the Nation... in order to ensure sustainable development, choices designed to meet the needs of the present generation should not jeopardise the ability of future generations and other peoples to meet their own needs”. Protection of the environment, the common heritage of all mankind, therefore constitutes an objective of constitutional value.
  5. Secondly, according to the eleventh section of the Preamble of the Constitution of 1946, the Nation “shall guarantee to all... protection of their health”. Protection of health therefore constitutes an objective of constitutional value.
  6. It is the legislator's responsibility to ensure the reconciliation between the aforementioned objectives and the exercise of the right of free enterprise. As such, the legislator decided to account for the effects that the activities carried out in France can have on the environment outside of France.
  7. By virtue of the aforementioned Regulation of 21 October 2009, plant protection products can only be put on the European market if the active substances that they contain have been approved by the competent authorities of the European Union. Such approval is refused for substances that, among other aspects, have harmful effects on human or animal health, or unacceptable effects on the environment.
  8. The disputed provisions prohibit the production, storage, and transport in France of plant protection products that contain active substances that have not been approved by the European Union because of these effects. They therefore act as a barrier not only to the sale of such products in France, but also to their export.
  9. Firstly, by adopting these provisions, the legislator has undertaken to prevent harm to human health and the environment that could result from the spread of active substances contained in the products concerned, for which the harmful nature has been determined as part of the process provided for in the Regulation of 21 October 2009. As the Constitutional Council does not have a general mandate for judgements that is similar to that of Parliament, it cannot call into question, in light of current knowledge, the provisions put in place by the legislator.
  10. The legislator has blocked businesses based in France from participating in the trade of such products on a global scale. They have therefore indirectly blocked the resulting harm of the use of these products to human health and the environment. This even extends outside of the European Union, where the production and marketing of such products may be authorised. These actions on the part of the legislator therefore have restricted the right of free enterprise in such a way as to comply with the pursued objectives of constitutional value of the protection of health and the environment.
  11. Secondly, by deferring the date of application to 1 January 2022 for prohibiting the production, storage, and transport of plant protection products that contain active substances that have not been approved, the legislator has provided a delay to companies subject to the prohibition that is a little over three years to adapt their business accordingly.
  12. It follows from the foregoing that, by adopting the contested provisions, the legislator has assured a reconciliation that is not manifestly unbalanced between the right of free enterprise and the objective of constitutional value of protecting health and the environment. The objection to the violation of this right must therefore be dismissed.
  13. Paragraph IV of Article L. 253-8 of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code, which does not violate any other right or freedom guaranteed by the Constitution, must be declared as conforming to the Constitution.
    THE CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL DECIDES:
    Article 1 - Paragraph IV of Article L. 253-8 of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code, in its formulation resulting from Act No. 2018-938 of 30 October 2018 for the balance of trade relations in the agriculture and food sector, and for food that is healthy, sustainable, and accessible to all, conforms to the Constitution.
    Article 2. - This decision will be published in the Journal Officiel of the French Republic and notified in the manner provided for in Article 23-11 of the aforementioned Ordinance of 7 November 1958.
    Ruled by the Constitutional Council in its 30 January 2020 session, with the following members present: Laurent FABIUS, President, Claire BAZY MALAURIE, Alain JUPPÉ, Dominique LOTTIN, Corinne LUQUIENS, Nicole MAESTRACCI, Jacques MÉZARD, François PILLET and Michel PINAULT.
    Published on 31 January 2020.

Les abstracts

  • 1. NORMES CONSTITUTIONNELLES
  • 1.7. OBJECTIFS DE VALEUR CONSTITUTIONNELLE
  • 1.7.1. Retenus
  • 1.7.1.12. Protection de l'environnement

Aux termes du préambule de la Charte de l'environnement : « l'avenir et l'existence même de l'humanité sont indissociables de son milieu naturel … l'environnement est le patrimoine commun des êtres humains… la préservation de l'environnement doit être recherchée au même titre que les autres intérêts fondamentaux de la Nation … afin d'assurer un développement durable, les choix destinés à répondre aux besoins du présent ne doivent pas compromettre la capacité des générations futures et des autres peuples à satisfaire leurs propres besoins ». Il en découle que la protection de l'environnement, patrimoine commun des êtres humains, constitue un objectif de valeur constitutionnelle.

(2019-823 QPC, 31 January 2020, cons. 4, JORF n°0027 du 1 février 2020, texte n° 100)
  • 1. NORMES CONSTITUTIONNELLES
  • 1.7. OBJECTIFS DE VALEUR CONSTITUTIONNELLE
  • 1.7.1. Retenus
  • 1.7.1.13. Protection de la santé

Aux termes du onzième alinéa du Préambule de la Constitution de 1946, la Nation « garantit à tous … la protection de la santé ». Il en découle un objectif de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de la santé.

(2019-823 QPC, 31 January 2020, cons. 5, JORF n°0027 du 1 février 2020, texte n° 100)
  • 4. DROITS ET LIBERTÉS
  • 4.10. AUTRES DROITS ET PRINCIPES SOCIAUX
  • 4.10.5. Principe de protection de la santé publique
  • 4.10.5.1. Fondement
  • 4.10.5.1.2. Objectif de valeur constitutionnelle

Le Conseil constitutionnel rattache également au onzième alinéa du Préambule de la Constitution de 1946 l'objectif de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de la santé.

(2019-823 QPC, 31 January 2020, cons. 5, JORF n°0027 du 1 février 2020, texte n° 100)
  • 4. DROITS ET LIBERTÉS
  • 4.10. AUTRES DROITS ET PRINCIPES SOCIAUX
  • 4.10.5. Principe de protection de la santé publique
  • 4.10.5.1. Fondement
  • 4.10.5.1.3. Rattachement à l'alinéa 11 du Préambule de la Constitution de 1946

Le Conseil constitutionnel rattache également au onzième alinéa du Préambule de la Constitution de 1946 l'objectif de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de la santé.

(2019-823 QPC, 31 January 2020, cons. 5, JORF n°0027 du 1 février 2020, texte n° 100)
  • 4. DROITS ET LIBERTÉS
  • 4.21. LIBERTÉS ÉCONOMIQUES
  • 4.21.2. Liberté d'entreprendre
  • 4.21.2.5. Conciliation du principe
  • 4.21.2.5.4. Avec des règles, principes ou objectifs de valeur constitutionnelle

Il appartient au législateur d'assurer la conciliation des objectifs de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de l'environnement et de protection de la santé avec l'exercice de la liberté d'entreprendre. À ce titre, le législateur est fondé à tenir compte des effets que les activités exercées en France peuvent porter à l'environnement à l'étranger.
En vertu du règlement (CE) n°1107/2009 du 21 octobre 2009, des produits phytopharmaceutiques ne peuvent être mis sur le marché européen que si les substances actives qu'ils contiennent ont été approuvées par les instances compétentes de l'Union européenne. Une telle approbation est notamment refusée aux substances qui ont des effets nocifs sur la santé humaine ou animale ou des effets inacceptables sur l'environnement. Les dispositions contestées interdisent la production, le stockage et la circulation en France des produits phytopharmaceutiques contenant des substances actives non approuvées, en raison de tels effets, par l'Union européenne. Elles font ainsi obstacle non seulement à la vente de tels produits en France mais aussi à leur exportation.
En premier lieu, en adoptant ces dispositions, le législateur a entendu prévenir les atteintes à la santé humaine et à l'environnement susceptibles de résulter de la diffusion des substances actives contenues dans les produits en cause, dont la nocivité a été constatée dans le cadre de la procédure prévue par le règlement du 21 octobre 2009. Il n'appartient pas au Conseil constitutionnel, qui ne dispose pas d'un pouvoir général d'appréciation et de décision de même nature que celui du Parlement, de remettre en cause, au regard de l'état des connaissances, les dispositions ainsi prises par le législateur. En faisant ainsi obstacle à ce que des entreprises établies en France participent à la vente de tels produits partout dans le monde et donc, indirectement, aux atteintes qui peuvent en résulter pour la santé humaine  et l'environnement et quand bien même, en dehors de l'Union européenne, la production et la commercialisation de tels produits seraient susceptibles d'être autorisées, le législateur a porté à la liberté d'entreprendre une atteinte qui est bien en lien avec les objectifs de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de la santé et de l'environnement poursuivis.
En second lieu, en différant au 1er janvier 2022 l'entrée en vigueur de l'interdiction de production, de stockage ou de circulation des produits phytopharmaceutiques contenant des substances actives non approuvées, le législateur a laissé aux entreprises qui y seront soumises un délai d'un peu plus de trois ans pour adapter en conséquence leur activité. Il résulte de tout ce qui précède que, en adoptant les dispositions contestées, le législateur a assuré une conciliation qui n'est pas manifestement déséquilibrée entre la liberté d'entreprendre et les objectifs de valeur constitutionnelle de protection de l'environnement et de la santé. Rejet du grief.

(2019-823 QPC, 31 January 2020, cons. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, JORF n°0027 du 1 février 2020, texte n° 100)
À voir aussi sur le site : Communiqué de presse, Commentaire, Dossier documentaire, Décision de renvoi CE, Références doctrinales, Vidéo de la séance.