A recent European study put the spotlight on pesticide content in wine. This study failed to generate any public debate in France. According to Dominique Techer, owner of Chateau Gombaude-Guillot in Pomerol and member of an assocation of wine-growers who want to see a kinder form of grape growing for the environment, the subject is taboo in the industry. Quoted by Le Nouvel Observateur, he said: “When you put these questions on the table, you are seen as a traitor. The profession cloaks itself in declarations of principle on agriculture raisonnée (agriculture which uses slightly lower-than-usual pesticide inputs) – in substance, we spray advisedly – and don’t care about the impact of these molecules on the environment and public health.” A recent study published by the Institut de Veille sanitaire (InVS) showed that during the May-August spraying period, air in the Gironde and Champagne regions is saturated with products such as the fungicide folpel (up to 1,200 ng per cubic metre), trifluraline, pendimenthaline and the highly toxic endocrine disrupter, endosulfan (around 1 ng per cubic metre). There are also traces of lindane – an organochloride pesticide which has been banned in France since 1998. No serious epidemiological study on this issue has been undertaken to date in France.
Every year, France uses 80,000 tonnes of pesticides. Wine-growing represents just 3 percent of the cultivated land area, but consumes 20 percent of the pesticides, according to the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA.
Ironically, the heavy application of all these pesticides poses a serious threat to terroir – a sacred notion in France which roughly translates as a certain sense of place and the qualities embodied by a product which are the result of local, site-related characteristics. Microbiologists warn that the massive use of pesticides could destroy those qualities of the French soils which underly the inimitable bouquets of its finest wines. Only last year, UNESCO proclaimed that the French notion of terroir – impossible to translate with one word in English – could be used as a model for site-specific sustainable development which could be applied in countries all over the world.
via Le Nouvel Observateur