Sunday, January 23, 2011

The price we pay for pesticides

Just to draw your attention to a report in the Telegraph yesterday on the death of a 43 year old vigneron Yannick Chenet whose death from leukaemia has been linked to the pesticides he sprayed on his crops including vines.

The report claims that over a quarter of the pesticides that are used in Europe each year are used in France and that a fifth of that amount goes onto vineyards despite the fact that they only account for 5% of France's agricultural land.

I've read that elsewhere although the figures vary. In Jean-Charles Botte's Le Guide des Vins Vivants (2007) he quotes microbiologist Claude Bourguignon who used to work for the French National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA). Bourguignon claims that vines only represent 2% of farmed land in France but use 30% of the pesticides, resulting in a loss of biodiversity as well as a hazard to the health of those who handle them. You can find his website here.


  1. Very interesting. And, as an Aussie, can we all just bookmark this, so next time someone starts rabbiting on that us lot down here are part of an industrial-agricultural complex that the French are smashing it out there onto the vines, very likely far more than us. kthxbai!

  2. No one country has the monopoly of virtue ;-)

  3. Just a concise OPINION, not a statement nor long argumentation. I’m 54 years old and I have humbly been a wine-maker for 6 tiny years only.
    All my efforts are directed towards the “spirit” of organic farming, using less and less pesticides as years go by. Still, I wouldn’t have used them AT ALL, had I been a young man when I first started, for the sake of my own health !
    And I, for one, should know: prior to that, I was a hospital physician (specialized in nephrology) for ten years and subsequently a scientific adviser for/with pharmaceutical companies for another ten years.

  4. Thanks, Luc. Interesting comment. I suspect we would be in for a shock if wineries had to publish statistics on the mortality of their workers, age and cause of death, and incidence of cancers compared to the norm for the population in their country. Must obviously affect agricultural workers too

  5. My dad (61 years old) has just been given weeks to live because of his leukaemia. We always suspected it started when he was spraying the vines in his vineyard. Another vintner not 30 miles away passed away 3 years ago also from leukaemia. This seems an unlikely coincidence to me.

  6. I'm really sorry to hear that, Duncan - that's not the first story of that kind I've heard.