Winery convicted of pesticide poisoning

A winery has been found guilty of “gross negligence” for failing to protect one of its employees from pesticide exposure.

Vineyards of Dragone outside Matera

The employee, identified only as Mrs S, had been working at The Château Monestier La Tour in the Dordogne in 2007 when she was hospitalised with a headache, irritation of the skin and vomiting – typical symptoms of pesticide poisoning, according to a report by French newspaper, Le Figaro.

Mrs S. lodged a claim of misconduct against the château to court, which this week ruled in her favour finding the winery guilty of “inexcusable misconduct” for failing to take precautions to prevent the accident and allowing Mrs. S. to work in the vineyard less than 24 hours after the pesticide was sprayed.

Stéphane Cottineau, counsel for the complainant, said this was the first instance in which a court had found in favour of a winery employee, and that this ruling would force employers to be much more “vigilant and cautious” when working with pesticides.

He said: “Mrs. S. is the epitome of all agricultural workers, who by their profession, find themselves exposed to toxic products with consequences often dramatic in their lives.”

An appeal was lodged against the ruling by the château, however it is understood it has since been withdrawn.

The château has been contacted for a comment.

France is the largest user of pesticides in Europe with 62,700 tonnes of active substances sold in 2011, according to French website sudouest.fr.

2 Responses to “Winery convicted of pesticide poisoning”

  1. Those symptoms sound typical of overexposure to sulphur, which is an organic pesticide.

    Also, measuring pesticide use by Kg is misleading because sulphur, the organically-approved solution for powdery mildew, weighs much, much more than any synthetic “conventional” pesticide. So every time a vigneron converts to organics, the weight of pesticides will increase.

  2. James Maxwell says:

    In response to Jonathans’ comment, I don’t think that only sulphur produces such intense symptoms, it must have been something stronger.

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