Friday's preliminary ruling by an administrative court in Nice cited environmental risks of the pesticide sulfoxaflor. The decision overturned a ruling by ANSES, the French agency for health and environment.
The court ruling banned the two pesticides, Closer and Transform, until a French court hears detailed arguments from both parties, giving the environmental group Générations Futures a temporary victory. The group argued that the two pesticides contain the insecticide sulfoxaflor and are therefore a threat to bees. Environmental groups have complained that sulfoxaflor is part of the neonicotinoid family of substances, which are being phased out in France due to concern over their link to declining bee populations.
ANSES argued that sulfoxaflor, the substance in question, remains in soils and plants for a much shorter period of time.
"We find this ruling extremely surprising," Benoit Dattin, communications manager at Dow AgroSciences, told Reuters. "Our products have a very favorable toxicological profile. The problem is that certain associations have put our products in the same basket as neonicotinoids."
Générations Futures, which brought the case to court, praised the ruling and called for an end to neonicotinoid products.
According to French regulations, sulfoxaflor use is permitted for straw cereals such as wheat and fruit and vegetables crops, but prohibited for crops that attract pollinating insects. The EU's health regulator approved the use of sulfoxaflor in 2015.