Wednesday, December 1

Battle between an association and Bordeaux wines over pesticides

Vineyard in the Médoc on August 12, 2017 – M.Bosredon/20Minutes

In September, the association denounced the presence of synthetic pesticide residues in 22 wines certified High Environmental Value (HVE). The Libourne judicial court examined Thursday the subpoena by Bordeaux wines of Valérie Murat, spokesperson for the Alerte aux toxins association, which fights in Gironde against phytosanitary products in viticulture.

The Interprofessional Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) – associated with 25 châteaux, wine growers, appellations associations, traders – which denounces “an intellectual swindle”, underlined that the 19 Bordeaux wines in question were “in perfect legality” and the concentrations detected “very low, always very below ”the thresholds. The CIVB also recalled the reservations of the Dubernet laboratory which had carried out these analyzes, but which had specified that this presence of pesticides was weak and legal, then had distanced itself from the presentation by Toxic Alert of its results.

The “label (HVE) is misleading for the consumer”

Valérie Murat denounces, for her part, HVE viticulture “still greedy in pesticides”. She pointed to a “label [HVE] misleading for the consumer “, with its” pretty butterfly sun grove logo “, but which” allows people who would like to believe that they have taken an ecological turn, that they are changing their practices, to continue in fact to use among the most dangerous synthetic pesticides ”.

The HVE is a French standard created in 2012 by the Ministry of Agriculture, which encourages and recognizes the efforts of farms to reduce pesticides and chemical fertilizers, increase biodiversity, manage water, but does not prohibit the absence of synthetic pesticides. It is often associated by its detractors with a label of “greenwashing”.

“The right to alert must exist, but must never be confused with a right to denigrate”

For the interprofession, Me Eve Duminy pleaded a “qualified denigration” by Valérie Murat who showed “no measure, no nuance, no caution”, by associating in its presentation the wines “with a mortal risk” potential, with “malicious intent”.

Valérie Murat is the daughter of a winegrower who died in 2012 from cancer recognized as an occupational disease. He had been exposed for more than 40 years to a product used in the treatment of a grapevine disease, and banned in France since 2001. Criminal proceedings are underway. “The right to alert, to criticize, exists and must exist, but must never be confused with a right to denigrate”, according to Me Duminy.

“Gag trial”?

The CIVB arguing a “very heavy discredit to Bordeaux wines”, claims 100,000 euros in damages for collective damage, the withdrawal of the September communication under penalty of 5,000 euros per day. The other plaintiffs are claiming damages ranging from a symbolic euro to several thousand euros.

Me Eric Morain, the only lawyer defending the anti-pesticide activist against half a dozen lawyers for the wine world, warned against a “gag lawsuit” which would aim to financially suffocate and silence an association which “we does not want to hear the elements of truth and good faith ”. The “presence, even infinitesimal”, of pesticide residues remains a presence.

“Wine is the only human or food product on which the composition does not appear. Is it a coincidence? It is voluntary ! Because we do not want to say what Valérie Murat and Alerte aux toxins denounced, ”he said. The judgment was reserved for February 25.

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