The exercise, unprecedented, was perilous, as the subject is sensitive in a territory marked for nearly ten years by an accumulation of pediatric cancers and by concentrations never seen in France of certain chemical herbicides (prosulfocarb and chlortoluron) which have polluted the air and even drinking water.
The urban community of La Rochelle organized, Monday, January 30, the first mediation meeting between farmers and residents of this territory. The objective of this experiment was less to find “solutions” than to meet “two opposing visions”. “The problem is so inscrutable that the solutions will only come from Brussels, Strasbourg or Paris. But we want to do something at our small level.explains Marc Maigné, doctor and community advisor in charge of health issues.
Mediation, entrusted to the La Rochelle company Communications House and to Myriam Bacqué, co-author of the White Paper on Mediation, comes after the order by the urban community, at the end of 2022, of an analysis of the distribution of the number of cancers over its twenty-eight municipalities and the request for a national moratorium on the use of prosulfocarb.
Skepticism of local residents
Among the hundred participants gathered in La Rochelle were thirty-six farmers and as many local residents, half of whom were volunteers and half of the inhabitants chosen at random from the electoral rolls of the five municipalities concerned: Saint-Rogatien, Bourgneuf, Montroy, Clavette and Périgny. Fearing a “coup de com” without a future, local residents were more difficult to mobilize than farmers. At the start of the meeting, moreover, some of them had difficulty concealing a certain skepticism.
During the day, Benoît Biteau, environmental MEP and farmer in Charente-Maritime, had declined the invitation – because of an appointment with the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau –, not without denouncing “the opacity” which surrounds, according to him, “these debates behind closed doors”. “The comments are anonymous, but there will be a public account”replied Myriam Bacqué.
The transcript of the exchanges will be communicated in the coming days. Themes identified during the preparation of the mediation, which began in the summer of 2022, served as a starting point for the debates: the cohabitation between local residents and farmers, aid and support for the agro-ecological transition, synthetic pesticides, the costs agriculture, etc. Divided into tables of twelve, supervised by as many mediators, the participants did not avoid any subject. None left before the end and, given the generally satisfied reactions of the participants at the end of the meeting, the bet seems to have been successful for the moment.
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Source: Le Monde