Santa Susano Farmers v. Municipality of Campana

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Final judgment
Argentina, Buenos Aires

Establecimientos agropecuarios santa susano
Public collectivities
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On the legality of municipal order no. 5792/11 prohibiting the aerial spraying of pesticides at a safety distance of one kilometer from sensitive and protected areas.
Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia) of Buenos Aires, Argentina
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September 18, 2023
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Confirms the validity of the municipal order.
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On 18 September 2023, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires confirmed the validity of Municipal Ordinance No. 5792/11 prohibiting the aerial spraying of pesticides at a safety distance of one kilometer from ecologically sensitive and protected areas.

On September 15, 2011, the Municipality of Campana adopted an ordinance regulating the use of pesticides, which stipulates in its article 14 that the fumigation of pesticides is prohibited within one kilometer of certain protected areas. This includes, for example, inhabited areas, schools, rivers or certain agricultural holdings.

Tomás Rossiter, owner of the Santa Susana farm located near a school and a park, two protected areas pursuant to the 2011 order, filed a complaint with the Administrative Court, arguing that the ordinance makes it impossible for him to carry out agricultural activities on his property, which is in violation of the Argentine Constitution. On 28 September 2012, the Court of First Instance partly granted his request by establishing a safety distance of 30 meters, affirming that the use of pesticides was essential to the realization of its agricultural activity and that the pesticides used were duly authorized and “harmless” products. The municipality of Campana then appealed this decision. On 26 February 2013, the Administrative Court of Appeal of San Nicolas dismissed the appeal. On the basis of the decision of 28 September 2012, other farmers were able to reduce the safety distance to 30 meters during fumigations in the vicinity of the protected areas, effectively neutralizing the 2011 ordinance.

Between 2012 and 2021, fumigations of pesticide products were therefore carried out near the population, including schools. A group of residents worried about the harmful consequences of pesticides on the health of their children have mandated a toxicology laboratory to test the quality of water. Following the disturbing toxicological results, they brought the case to the attention of trial judge Ayerbe. After having seized itself of its own motion, the administrative court pronounced on September 17, 2021 the lifting of the injunction of September 28, 2012, taking into account, on the one hand, the increase in the population and the proximity of the fields and, the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on the precautionary principle.

Shortly thereafter, the Municipality of Campara again brought an extraordinary action before the administrative court to recognize the inapplicability of the decision of 28 September 2012 (“recurso extraordinario de inaplicabilidad de ley o doctrina legal”). The Buenos Aires Supreme Court finally settled the issue, confirming the September 17, 2021 decision and reinstating the one-kilometer safety limit for pesticide fumigations.