The Battle Over Pesticide Use in France Heats Up

wine vines vineyards

In France, the use of pesticides in vineyards is quickly becoming a hot-button issue with wine producers, says The New York Times. France is the third-largest consumer of pesticides in the world, after the United States and Japan. As the European Union’s largest agricultural producer, pesticide and big-agriculture lobbies are powerful, and can easily dissuade politicians from risking any actions to reduce the use of chemicals on any produce. Case in point: A recent goal to cut pesticide use in half by 2018 was put on hold until 2025 by the French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll.

The general attitude of many wine producers ranges from vehemently anti-pesticide to somewhat passive if pesticides are used in small amounts. Former chef Jean Bardet sides with the latter camp, saying: “You have all these young people with rings in their noses who don’t know wine and say, ‘If it’s organic, it’s better’…That’s crazy. Either wine gives pleasure and happiness or it does not. It’s all about taste.”

On the other side, producers of wines that identify as “natural,” “organic” or “biodynamic” feel strongly that the use of pesticides diminishes the quality of wines and kills the soil. Producer Emmanuel Giboulot went so far as to defy orders form the government to spray his vines with pesticides and ended up paying thousands in fines and faces potential jail time.

Whether or not the use of pesticides in France ever becomes more closely regulated is yet to be seen. But the debate over pesticide use, terroir and the environment is sure to continue to gather steam as other European countries, and the U.S., are urged by consumer demand to take a closer look at how grapes are being farmed. [New York Times][Photo: Flickr/Andrew Taylor]