Around 600 activists have taken to the streets in Bordeaux to protest against the use of pesticides by the region’s winegrowers.
Protestors in Bordeaux claim the spraying of pesticides on vines has become a serious danger to public health
Activists could be seen wearing sanitation masks and suits, and holding placards with messages such as ‘Protect our children’ during the protest in Bordeaux on Sunday.
The protest comes after a television documentary, broadcast in France on February 2, which warned about the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment, and which focused specifically on the high level of pesticide use in Bordeaux vineyards, Le Monde reported.
Wine is by far the most important industry in the Gironde, representing nearly 80% of all agricultural activity and contributing around €4 billion in revenue to the economy annually.
However environmentalists have become increasingly vociferous in their protests against the Bordeaux wine industry. As reported in the drinks business, the use of chemical sprays was blamed when 23 primary school children and their teacher were taken ill in the village of Villeneuve, near Bourg-sur-Gironde, in May 2014.
Protestors have cited the ineffectiveness of pesticides in fighting vine diseases as a primary reason for curbing their use.
In 2015 a report on the strength of the vine diseases, co-signed by several organisations including the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the French Chambers of Agriculture, concluded that several commonly used chemicals had lost any effectiveness in the fight against such common vine diseases as powdery mildew and botrytis.
The president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, Bernard Farges, sought to defend Bordeaux winegrowers’ use of pesticides, insisting that they were operating according to agreed standards and regulations.
“We use registered products,” Farges told Le Monde.
“We know that there is a social responsibility and we inform our winemakers about other ways of working, but if it’s for anyone to change the rules, it is for the state to do.”
In September last year the drinks business reported how French health authorities had said that the use of pesticides on vineyards “could not be excluded” as a reason for the high rates of child cancer in Sauternes.
The region had been rocked by a study from local health agency ASR, which claimed that the rate of childhood cancer in Preignac, the area’s central village, was five times the national average in France.