20th February, 2013 by Lucy Shaw
A French study has found pesticide residues in 90% of the wines it tested.
Carried out by the Excell laboratory in Bordeaux, the study found just 10% of the 300 French wines tested were clean of any chemical traces from vine treatments.
Pascal Chatonnet, who led the study, tested wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages, including wines from Bordeaux, the Rhône, Madiran and Gaillac.
The wines were tested for 50 different molecules, such as pesticides and fungicides, commonly used in vine treatments.
An anti-rot fungicide, applied late in the growing season, was the most common molecule found, with some wines containing up to nine different molecules.
The individual molecules were found to be below threshold levels of toxicity, though Chatonnet believes urgent research needs to be carried out into how the molecules break down and interact with one another.
According to Chatonnet, the presence of several molecules could potentially be more harmful than a higher level of a single molecule.
While vine land represents only 3% of agricultural land in France, the wine industry is responsible for 80% of fungicide use.
Since 2008, a plan has been in place in France to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2018, though levels actually rose by 2.7% between 2010 and 2011.
Rather than affecting wine drinkers, it is vineyard workers who are most at risk.
In May 2012, the French government recognised a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease in farm workers, while last month, UCLA neurologists discovered a link between the pesticide benomyl and Parkinson’s disease.