From the NEW YORK TIMES — January 2, 2014
Organic wine producers in the Burgundy region of France are facing prosecution for refusing to use pesticides. This move is perplexing given the Ministry of Agriculture’s support for the organic wine industry and growing public alarm over pesticides in French wine.
The share of organically produced French wines rose from 2.6% in 2007 to 8.2% by the end of 2012. Despite this progress, France is still the third-highest user of pesticides in the world after the United States and Japan, and the highest user in Europe, applying 110,000 metric tons of pesticides per year.
A recent study that found pesticide residues in 90% of the French wines tested created an uproar. Pesticide residues were even found in organic wines, indicating contamination from neighboring vineyards or other sources. French vines are susceptible to a contagious bacterial disease, flavescence dorée, transmitted by a leafhopper. Treatment with pesticides is required by French law in several winegrowing regions including Burgundy
One organic producer in Burgundy has now been charged with breaking the law for refusing to use Pyrevert, a pyrethrin pesticide. He says there is no evidence that his vines are infected, and argues that Pyrevert, a neurotoxin, is nonspecific to leafhoppers and kills beneficial insects as well. He faces a six month prison sentence and a €30,000 fine (about $41,000). Another organic grower was fined 1 euro after he agreed to use pesticides…
Under the 2007 Grenelle law on the environment, France has pledged to reduce BY 50% its pesticide consumption by 2018. To help meet this goal, Stéphane Le Foll, the French minister of agriculture, announced on Nov. 13, 2013 a new sustainable agriculture bill scheduled to be submitted to the French Assembly in January 2014 for debate.
Considering organic producers who refuse pre-emptive use of pesticides as criminals will not help France’s transition to sustainable agricultural practices. The law requiring such use in Burgundy is not only bad policy, it is terrible publicity for French wine. The law should be changed, and the French Assembly should pass the new bill on sustainable agriculture this month.