Supporting winegrowers that refuse to treat their vineyards with insecticides

Monday 24 February 2014

legal case IPM Insecticides France flavescence agroecology

Flavescence dorée is a vine disease transmitted by an insect vector: the leafhopper. In order to eradicate this disease, the region of Bourgogne in France obliges its winegrowers to treat their vineyards with insecticides since 2013. As a result, winegrowers who refuse to treat their vines with insecticides and use alternative techniques against this vineyard disease face legal problems. Many French associations urge French authorities to stop such legal proceedings in favour of the environment and food safety.

The decision to make pesticide treatments mandatory reflects a model of plant health management that considers eradication by chemical control as a dominant solution. Bee Life European Beekeeping Coordination and many other organisations think that the results of such approach are not sustainable in the long run. Indeed, the results may go in a completely opposite direction:
- Pesticides kill life, they destroy beneficial insects and biodiversity that contribute to the natural balance of the ecosystem and the self-regulation of vines disease and parasitism. Likewise, they kill pollinators, such as bees, which play a major role in agroecosystems.
- In this specific case, the treatments become mandatory before even knowing whether Flavescence is present or not in a given vine plot. Moreover, the leafhopper is not a specific pest of vineyards, but also of other plants. This is why a holistic approach should be implemented in order to solve the problem in the long run.

As argued by the French associations, alternative solutions must be available and promoted among winegrowers who do not wish to treat their wine with insecticides. These solutions do exist, they aim to protect the vine from the leafhopper and to respect at the same time the environment. Some examples are:
- the use of leafhopper traps;
- the monitoring and grubbing of Flavescence contaminated vine;
- the application of local treatments when outbreaks of Flavescence are identified;
- the promotion of further research to identify sources of development of this disease and to find ways to improve vine resistance to the disease.
Today, authorities must promote sustainable ways to produce food neither harming the environment nor food safety. Authorities need to keep in mind disease management in the long run.