International: Pesticide protesters raise pressure in Bordeaux

Campaigners in the Bordeaux wine region have staged what they say will be the first of several actions to highlight the purported risks of pesticide use for vineyard workers and locals.

Pesticide protesters in Bordeaux. Credit: Mehdi Fedouach / AFP / Getty
Image: Pesticide protesters in Bordeaux. Credit: Mehdi Fedouach / AFP / Getty

Protesters in the Médoc on Bordeaux‘s Left Bank planted a series of un-marked white crosses last weekend and erected placards warning of the risks of pesticide-related illness.

Marie-Lys Bibeyran, of protest group ‘Médoc Pesticides Collective’, addressed vineyard workers directly in a statement. ‘We are here for you,’ she said. ‘You should not have to choose between health and work.’

Pesticides have re-emerged as a hot topic in some parts of the wine world in 2016.

That is especially true in the Bordeaux area, which was the focus of a provocative French television documentary earlier this year. The Aquitaine region of south-west France, which encompasses Bordeaux, is the largest user of pesticides in the country.

Bordeaux winemakers say that they have been pro-active on the issue.

In July 2016, the Bordeaux wine council, CIVB, launched a new strategy to combat pesticide risks in association with local authorities.

They said that winemakers would re-double efforts to cut pesticide use as quickly as possible, within the French governmnent’s national plan for cutting pesticide use.

That plan, known as Ecophyto, envisages a 25% cut in pesticide use by 2020 – versus 2008 levels – and a further 25% cut by 2025. The original target set by the government – a 50% reduction by 2018 – will not be met.

The CIVB also wants all wineries to achieve sustainable certification. Earlier this year, it said that 45% of estates were certified as sustainable.

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