By Wine-Searcher staff
This Sunday the center of Bordeaux will see a “marche blanche”, or white march, a protest against pesticides following shocking revelations this week on the French national TV documentary program Cash Investigations. The two-hour program used detail from a leaked government database listing agricultural pesticides purchased over the years 2008-2013. Data revealed that the Bordeaux region is among the highest consumers of pesticides in France.
The department of Gironde, where Bordeaux is located, is one of three areas of France marked black on a map of France created using the leaked data by the team behind the Cash Investigation documentary named “Produits chimiques, nos enfants en danger”, or “Chemicals, our children at risk”.
The documentary revealed that France is the highest user of agricultural pesticides in Europe, with 65,000 tonnes sprayed annually – 3320 in Gironde. The vast list of pesticides revealed that many, still on the permitted list, were labeled as potentially carcinogenic or toxic in other ways.
The authors of the documentary also showed a map of Gironde indicating 132 schools located close to vineyards and deemed “sensitive sites”. They selected 20 children from five different schools and sent strands of their hair for analysis at a laboratory in Luxembourg that specializes in analysis of pollutants in hair.
The results of the tests on the Bordeaux children’s hair showed horrifying levels of more than 40 potentially dangerous pesticides, some of them featuring on banned lists of chemicals. It was noted that some pesticides, banned in France more than a decade ago, were still present as particles in the air.
The program revealed that, in Gironde, the risk of a child contracting leukemia was 20 percent higher than the national average. And, childhood cancers in France have increased by 1 percent each year since 1980. Other serious childhood problems including autism are on the increase too.
So is there a link between pesticide use and infantile cancers? Research revealed in 2013 by French scientists concluded that yes there is, without doubt. The program makers were reluctant to blame vine-growers and agriculture in general, admitting that these people are suffering too.
Instead they turned to the world’s major chemical companies and proceeded to confront several including the German company, Bayer, inventor of synthetic aspirin and the largest supplier to France of what it calls produits de protection de la plante or crop protection products – pesticides.
In May 2014, Wine-Searcher reported the story of a school in Bourg where pupils and teachers were taken ill after the nearby vineyards were sprayed with chemical fungicides. And, last September we reported on an uproar in Sauternes over child cancer rates and probable links to pesticides. There have been several reported cancer deaths of vineyard workers reported in France over the past few years and directly related to pesticide use.
Last week’s investigative program on a major TV channel has caused much more polemic and consternation, prompting the march this coming Sunday in Bordeaux.
The Marche blanche contre les pesticides is organized by various environmental groups. Communications about the march, which include a Facebook event page, underline the wish to stop the denial and “omerta” of the various wine institutions. A short interview about the program with Bernard Farge, president of the Bordeaux official wine organization, the CIVB, in the Bordeaux regional newspaper, Sud Ouest, provided little response and there has been no official comment about the program from the CIVB.
TLB finds other interesting articles about health and wine at Wine Searcher
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