PARIS (Reuters) – French health security agency ANSES restricted the use of common weedkiller prosulfocarb on Tuesday, mainly due to a risk of skin reaction in children, and threatened to ban it next June if producers cannot prove the new rules are effective.

Mainly used on cereals like wheat, barley and rye, as well as root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, prosulfocarb has become the second-largest weedkiller behind glyphosate in France, the European Union’s biggest crop grower.

“ANSES cannot exclude the exceeding of safety thresholds, mainly via skin exposure, for children less than 10 metres away from the crop during treatments,” it told reporters.

ANSES therefore ordered that farmers cut by an average 40% the use of prosulfocarb per hectare and use nozzles on sprayers that reduce the drifting of the substance in the air by 90% from at least 66% previously.

Nozzles with 90%-drift reduction are already used in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In addition, ANSES imposed a minimum distance of 10 metres from residential areas.

Producers of the highly volatile weedkiller will have to prove that the new measures are effective by June 30, 2024.

“In the absence of convincing demonstration, the authorisations will be withdrawn without any delay,” ANSES said.

Dispersion of prosulfocarb can also cause economic losses, ANSES stressed. In 2021, a volume well above maximum limits of the chemical was found on organic buckwheat near fields where it had been used, which forced farmers to destroy their output.

The EU last month renewed until Jan. 31, 2027 the weedkiller’s marketing authorisation which was expiring at the end of the month.

Sales of prosulfocarb in France have risen sevenfold in the past 10 years to reach 7,400 metric tons in 2022, due notably to a lower use of other weedkillers, ANSES said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, Editing by William Maclean)

FILE PHOTO: A view shows ears of wheat in a field in Montbert near Nantes, France, June 15, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File photo