Municipality of Sastre v. Zoé Giraudo et al.

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November 29, 2018
Final judgment
Argentina, Santa Fe

Local authorities
Municipalité de Sastre
Individual, Neighbour
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Annulment of the lower court's decision ordering the municipality of Sarse to ban pesticide spraying within a one-kilometer radius of urban areas.
Supreme Court of Justice of Santa Fe, Argentina
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November 6, 2023
The decision ordering the municipality of Sarse to prohibit the spraying of pesticides within a safety distance of one kilometre of urban areas is upheld.
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On November 6, 2023, the Supreme Court of Justice of Santa Fe rejected the appeal filed by the municipality of Sastre against the injunction issued by the trial judge to prohibit the use of phytosanitary products within a one-kilometer radius of the municipality's urban areas.

This decision originated in a complaint filed by the family of Zoé Giraudo, a 2-year-old girl who developed cancer after being regularly exposed to pesticides sprayed near where she lived. On November 29, 2018, Zoé Giraudo's family, joined by a collective of 40 neighbors and the Citizens' Union for Life and the Environment (Unión Ciudadana por la Vida y el Ambiente) filed an amparo appeal.

In September 2020, the Rafaela Court upheld the civil parties' claims, declared article 9 of municipal ordinance 1174, which regulates the use of pesticides in the municipality, unconstitutional, and ordered the municipality to prohibit pesticide spraying within a distance of one kilometer of residential areas. The municipality of Sastre appealed against this decision, arguing that it was arbitrary and infringed its constitutional rights. Local farmers also wanted to appeal against the decision as interested third parties, but were unable to pursue their action (as the deadline for doing so had passed). Rafaela's Court of Civil, Commercial and Labor Appeals rejected the municipality's appeal, confirming the first-instance ruling.

The municipality of Sastre then lodged an extraordinary appeal for unconstitutionality with the Supreme Court of Justice of Santa Fe. In addition to the grounds of arbitrariness and unconstitutionality, the municipality of Sastre argued that the evidence had been misinterpreted, and that the expert reports and testimony did not provide "the certainty [of being] in the presence of certain and imminent damage".

In its November 6, 2023 decision to dismiss, the Santa Fe Supreme Court of Justice noted that, on the one hand, the amparo class action was "the ideal means of effectively protecting the fundamental rights at stake", so that the plaintiffs' standing and interest in acting were established; and, on the other hand, that the argument of unconstitutionality, according to which the first instance decision was contrary to Provincial Law 11273 of 1995, which provides that "[. . it is up to the municipality to decide whether or not to proceed with fumigations in the zone where the law no longer considers them dangerous", was not demonstrated, as the municipality merely reiterated the arguments it had already formulated at first instance and on appeal. It was therefore a "simple divergence" of interpretation with no constitutional value.

Finally, the Supreme Court based its rejection of this claim on the rights expressly recognised in the Constitution, such as the right to a healthy environment, and on the principles of prevention and precaution. According to the latter principle, which justifies protective measures being taken in the event of scientific uncertainty concerning the risk, and on condition that there is evidence of the possible occurrence of damage, the argument that there was no imminent and certain damage could not be accepted.

The municipality of Sastre has filed a new extraordinary appeal with the Argentine Supreme Court, at federal level, to challenge this decision once again.