Organic Winemaker Faces Prison and Fine for Refusing to Spray Grapes
A French organic winemaker has reportedly appeared in court to answer to
charges that he defied an official order to spray his vineyard with a pesticide
to prevent the spread of a leafhopper insect believed to be responsible for a
devastating bacterial disease that has affected vines in Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or
region, where Emmanuel Giboulot produces Côte de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes
de Nuits organic wines. He claims that the pesticide does not work and
is harmful to pollinating insects such as bees. He also apparently insists that
more natural means can be used to fight the disease.
According to a news source, Giboulot faces a six-month prison sentence and
€30,000 (US$41,000) fine for failing to apply the insecticide treatment to his
vineyard in July 2013. An online petition about his case has reportedly been
signed by more than 40,000 supporters, and a large crowd gathered outside
the Dijon court on March 3, 2014, before his appearance. Prosecutors have
requested that Giboulot pay a €1,000 fine, and the court will reportedly
render its verdict on April 7.
Claiming that 30 acres of vines in the region have been uprooted and the
“flavescence dorée” disease threatens more than one-half of the Burgundy
region’s vineyards, officials contend that preventative treatment is necessary.
Giboulot, however, disagrees. He was quoted as saying, “I am not irresponsible
and I am not trying to be radical. I simply do not believe that systematic
treatment, even without any symptoms of the disease, is the solution. I want
to show people that there are options, and that we need to think about our own health and that of our customers. My father began converting to organic farming in the 1970s, and we are now fully organic and biodynamic. I don’t want to undo decades of work applying a treatment where the effects on the health of the vines and the public are as yet unproven.” Biodynamic farming methods, said to be used by 450 wine producers globally, apparently incorporate ecological and spiritual approaches to farming. See The Guardian and Agence France-Presse, February 23, 2014; Natural Products Online, February 25, 2014.