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Daily News Blog

10
Dec

Conviction Overturned for Organic Winemaker Who Refused to Spray Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2014) Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic winemaker in Burgundy, France, cheered ‘victory for people power’ after his conviction for refusing to spray his vines with pesticides was overturned. Mr. Giboulot refused to comply with a government order mandating vineyards be sprayed to control flavescence dorée disease, citing that it was not an immediate threat in his region, and that pesticides posed more harm than good. His resolve against systemic, prophylactic pesticide spraying won broad support across the globe.

Emmanuel-Giboulot-012In the spring of 2013, all wine producers in Burgundy were ordered to spray pesticides on their vines to fight flavescence dorée, a bacterial disease spread by the leaf hopper, Scaphoideus titanus. But Mr. Giboulot produces high-quality organic or “bio-dynamic” red and white wines from 35 acres of vines under the appellations “Côte de Beaune” and “Haute Côte de Nuits.” He refused to obey the pesticide order on the grounds that the disease was not an immediate threat in his region, the pesticide recommended to be sprayed was ineffective and damaging to pollinating insects such as bees, and the disease can be fought via more natural means. After defying an official order to treat his vineyard, Mr. Giboulot was fined €1,000 and risked six months in jail.

On appeal, the court in Dijon found in Mr. Giboulot’s favour. The court ruled that it was the local government administrator who had acted illegally by ordering all Burgundian vineyards to be sprayed when there was no clear threat. The court also ruled that the local agricultural board and administrator failed to seek the approval of the ministry of agriculture in Paris.

“This is a victory for people power and for whistleblowing,” Mr. Giboulot said of his stand, which divided the Burgundy wine industry but won admiration all over the globe.

He was supported by some of his fellow wine-producers, but others accused him of placing the whole of the Burgundy vineyards —among the most prestigious in the world— at risk. Mr. Giboulot said he would be ready to use a  pesticide against an immediate threat, but the “knee-jerk” and “systematic” use of chemicals was bad for human health, and bad for the quality of wine. The leaf-hopping insect Scaphoideus titanus, which spreads flavesence dorée (or “golden rot”), has been compared to phylloxera, the pest which devastated French vineyards in the 19th century. An estimated 30 acres of vines were destroyed by the disease in 2012. The French agriculture ministry prosecuted Mr. Giboulot in 2013 for “failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard.” Vine growers in several regions, including Burgandy, are required by French law to use pesticides to control this disease. After initial discovery of the disease in Burgundy’s Beaune region, the local administration ordered all vineyard owners in the Côte d’Or area to treat their vineyards with pesticides. But Mr. Giboulot argued that the pyrethrin-based pesticide product that organic farmers could use against the pest without losing their certification has undesirable side effects on non-target organisms.

Golden rot had appeared in only 16 villages in the whole of Côte d’Or —and not in Mr. Giboulot’s own part of the county, the Côte de Beaune. “This is proof that we are not faced by a pandemic and there was no need to spray the whole département,” he said.

32-Dijon-AFPGettyMr. Giboulot is part of a gathering movement that says the French wine industry’s excessive use of pesticides and fungicides has undermined its own argument that good or great wine can only flow from “terroir” —or natural conditions of soil or climate. An examination of 300 French wines last year found that 90 per cent contained traces of the chemicals most commonly used to treat vines. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be found here in French.) France is the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe. The country has pledged to reduce its pesticide consumption by 50 percent by 2018.

The organic wine market has grown —the share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent by the end of 2012. According to the New York Times, contamination of organic vineyards from neighboring areas continues to threaten the industry. In the U.S., only wine made with organic grapes and naturally occurring sulfites can be labeled organic.

Source: The Independent

Photo Sources: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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One Response to “Conviction Overturned for Organic Winemaker Who Refused to Spray Pesticides”

  1. 1
    GMOsRfailedTech Says:

    Congratulations to this courageous man.

    I submit that American “agriculture” —with its oceans of pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs— is possibly the greatest technological failure and scientific fraud of all time.

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