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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

What is an emergency? Neonicotinoids and emergency situations in plant protection in the EU

Epstein, Yaffa; Chapron, Guillaume; Verheggen, Francois


Actions potentially harmful to the environment that are otherwise illegal are sometimes permitted in cases of emergency. How to define an emergency can therefore be both controversial and highly consequential. In this article, we explore one such contemporary controversy: when the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, banned in the EU, can nevertheless be granted an emergency authorization. We analyse several questions, currently before the EU Court of Justice in the ongoing Pesticide Action Network Europe and Others case, that will determine the scope of an "emergency" in the context of derogating from the Pesticide Regulation, and that may impact how "emergencies" are defined in other legal contexts. We argue that the circumstances do not support a legal finding that emergency authorization is justified in this case, and that, in general, "emergencies" must be narrowly defined when justifying measures that involve risks to human health and the environment.


Bees; Biodiversity; Environmental law; EU law; Pesticides; Pollinators

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2022, volume: 51, number: 8, pages: 1764–1771
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Epstein, Yaffa
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Verheggen, Francois
University of Liege

UKÄ Subject classification

Law (excluding Law and Society)
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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