Neonicotinoids are unleashing passions in France, especially since the aphid infestation that ravaged crops in early 2020. It was also at this time when, as an interest in agriculture, I discovered agribashing and the extent of disinformation around the agricultural world. Among the many researchers, journalists and politicians lending themselves to the exercise, one name seemed to me to have a rather central role: a journalist from Le Monde,Stéphane Foucart.

Why Stéphane Foucart?

Reading his articles often left me feeling uneasy: beyond the misinformation around agriculture, very common in the press, I felt a more far-reaching, systematic approach. So I started to analyze his literary production. Neonicotinoids were one of his main subjects.


Neonicotinoids (NNI) are insecticides used mainly as a “coating”. The “coated” seed will end up inside a kind of ball containing the substance, which will impregnate the plant as it grows. The idea is to target only insects that are trying to devour the plant. Spread from the early 90s, they have become one of the main insecticides used in the world.

However, they are increasingly contested, notably because of their toxicity to pollinators. The first shock was the poisoning of many hives by dust released during sowing coated corn. Part of the coating went into the air and had wiped out nearby bee colonies. Regulations have been enacted to combat this risk. Second, it was exposure through nectar that proved dangerous for pollinators. EFSA issued a harsh opinion in 2013 against 3 NNI, which resulted in a ban on most of their uses in the EU for 2 years, then a definitive ban in 2018. In France, a law passed in 2016 banned all neonicotinoids (NNI) and their uses from 2018.

Synthesize and analyze 71 articles

The purpose of this book is therefore to analyze Stéphane Foucart’s articles on neonicotinoids. He published 71 articles on the subject between July 8, 2011 and March 26, 2021. I summarize each of them in the appendix.

Overall, the journalist develops two main arguments: on the one hand, the idea that NNI are largely responsible for the decline of many species, in the first place pollinators; on the other hand the idea that it is because of the influence of industry on institutions that these insecticides would not have already been banned for a long time (or even would have been authorized in the first place). Digging deer into the subject, one realizes that large parts of these reasonings are in fact false or heavily mislead the reader. Nevertheless, the author manages to make his speech credible to many readers by using a whole battery of information manipulation tactics, the complexity and power of which we show by dissecting several articles.

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