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Weg met die wijn-gifspuit

De giftige herbicide glyfosaat mag in Europa nog 5 jaar worden gebruikt. Maar de Franse president Emanuel Macron wil er al binnen 3 jaar vanaf.

Vooral in de Franse wijngaarden wordt het verdelgingsmiddel op grote schaal gebruikt. Tegenstanders houden vol dat het kankerverwekkend is. In een proces tegen de grootste producent Monsanto kwamen 3500 aanklachten ter tafel die inhouden dat glyfosaat lymfeklier-kanker uitlokt. Drie officiële instanties ontkennen het risico op kanker, onder andere de European Food Safety Authority. Intussen wordt de druk op de wijnboeren om met dit middel te stoppen steeds groter. Vooral de Champagne, waar het nog op grote schaal wordt gebruikt. Wine-Searcher meldt:


François Veillerette, director of Générations Futures, told Wine-Searcher that 80 percent of the French population wants the immediate eradication of glyphosate and more and more people are changing their consuming patterns, preferring organic or artisanal produce. Guillaume Bodin, producer of the documentary Zero Phyto, 100 Percent Bio, added to this that the wine industry is experiencing this shift more rapidly, as wine is a lifestyle product. "Organic, biodynamic and natural wine is a growing sector in the French wine market. With more and more consumers worried about glyphosate traces, this trend will only accelerate in the coming years", says Bodin.

Consumer concerns are most likely also what has triggered several inter-professional organizations to communicate about their sustainability policies. Over the summer, Burgundian winemakers adapted a regional charter promoting a better integration of their vineyards in the regional landscape. The charter is based on the protection of the terroir, including the soil, by heavily reducing the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers. It will be tested for a year, before being generally adopted.

Cecile Mathiaud, head of PR for the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), explains that "the core for a speedy implementation is that the project is carried the growers themselves. Neighboring growers will follow suit when they see it works, like they did in the battle against the flavescence dorée."

Bordeaux has also been communicating about its push towards more sustainable viticulture. A recent example is Saint-Émilion, which adopted a mandatory sustainability program, requiring growers to either apply for organic, biodynamic or HVE certification.

Highest user

Champagne's sustainability program, Viticulture Durable en Champagne (VDC), which was adapted in 2014, also aims to convert the entire appellation to a more sustainable way of farming. However, unlike in St Emilion, it allows for self-evaluation as well as certification. To date only 189 producers have applied for certification, even if this means 12.5 percent of the appellation surface is now certified. According to the Ecophyto report, Champagne is France's highest pesticide user, applying an average of 19.5 treatments in 2015; several of these are glyphosate applications. Last year the CIVC's technical director, Arnaud Descotes, told Wine-Searcher that two-thirds of the regions vineyards were still blanket sprayed with glyphosates, while more than 90 percent of the vineyards used the herbicide to kill weeds under the row. The CIVC declined to give updated figures, however Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, cellarmaster at Louis Roederer and the head of the CIVC's technical committee, confirmed that some progress has been made in regards of herbicide usage since 2016. He added that if glyphosates were indeed to be faced out by 2020, growers would need more technical and economic assistance. Champagne Roederer has not used herbicides in its vineyard since 2015.


Romain Le Guillou, vineyard director at Veuve Clicquot, agrees that the conversion to zero herbicides is not an easy one. It requires heavy investments in materials (tractors and mechanical weeding tools), staff and staff training. Clicquot began the conversion in 2005, and is set to achieve its goal of working its 360 hectares (890 acres) of house vineyard without herbicides by the 2018 vintage. Clicquot also assists its grape growers to eliminate glyphosates. They house pays a premium for grapes grown without the use of herbicides, and offers training as well as technical assistance (including the use of material). They are also engaging with the Lycée Vitcole d'Avize, to train young wine makers to work without herbicides.

According to Veillerette, the participation of viticulture and agriculture colleges in zero herbicide programs is key if France is really to eliminate glyphosate in the next three years. "It is important to educate our future [grape] farmers on the harmful nature of pesticides including glyphosate, and offer alternatives. Once people realize these products pollute our waterways, erode our soils and are cancerous, they generally take on a different perspective."