FARMERS OR PHARMACISTS
- Wine not certified organic comes from ‘conventional’ vineyards using chemicals, which constitute 99% of the wine production worldwide. These are highly toxic to the entire biosphere, plants, animals, humans,… those who work the land as well as those who consume the final product. Residues regularly enter the groundwater.
In the past couple of decades ‘systemic pesticides’ were developed and are heavily promoted by the chemical industries as wonder drugs. They cannot be washed off as by entering the ‘system’ of the plant, the poison becomes part of every cell of that plant, including the corn, the fruit, and in this case the grapes and the wine.
From April until harvest, systemic pesticides are sprayed by tractors or by helicopters. The first is ‘desiccant’, a systemic and not selective - herbicide. It dries up all it touches leaving the ground strangely striped by dried - ‘burnt’ - grass lines under the vines. Copious uncontrolled use is the norm, some spray the entire perimeter of the vineyard leaving nothing but the vines. After two rounds of desiccant, from May heavy systemic treatments are applied on the emerging vine leaves.
- There are many kinds, all extremely toxic, the spraying of some requires an official license - however there is no control over the handling practices.
The chemical treatments are applied at all stages: the flowering, the budding grapes and their growth. It is advised not to work in the vineyards for a few days after the spraying of these products but in any case, all labourers work with bare hands and without masks.
At the beginning of August anti-mold is applied. It is illegal to spray anti mold less than 30 days before the harvest to avoid contamination of the grapes. But in absence of any kind of control, the likelihood that they are sprayed right up to harvest is rather high. After the harvest chemical fertilizer is applied which besides pumping up the vines with pure azote, develops overgrowth of weeds that in spring will then be burnt with desiccant.
This way the vine cycle ends. It is a circle that every day poisons the soil, air, water, nature, animals and human beings. Bees, for example, which are essential for the reproduction of flowers, fruit, vegetables and trees are at risk of extinction because of use of chemicals and industrialization in agriculture. In Summer 2008 a helicopter hired by some wineries in Piedmont sprayed a very toxic pesticide only allowed to be used with the tractor and a special license.
Millions of bees died.
- Chemical agriculture encourages imbalance: Large quantities of fertilizer create the weed overgrowth which is then killed by desiccant — and as grape overproduction may affect the overall quality, in July / August bunches of grapes are cut to re-establish a balance (’green harvest’).
In chemical vineyards the equilibrium of the plant is broken, with the chain effect that man must keep intervening.
The Worldwide Integrated Assessment report (2014), states that systemic pesticides pose a risk not just to honeybees but to a variety of other animals, such as soil-conditioning earthworms, aquatic invertebrates, birds and fish… they accumulate in the soil and persist for months and in some cases for years.
The breakdown products are often as toxic – or more toxic – than the pesticide’s active ingredients, which are designed to work as poisonous nerve agents. Independent researchers advising the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), conclude that the “systemic” pesticides pose as great a risk to the environment as the banned pesticide DDT, and other persistent organophosphates.
- “Far from protecting food production, the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it, imperiling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem” Dr Bonmartin, National Centre for Scientific Research, France.
ORGANIC AND BIODYNAMIC VINEYARDS
Cutting or ploughing underneath the vine rows is the only way to control weed growth. Two treatments are allowed against vine diseases: pure sulphur and copper mixed with lime, which was traditionally used until 50 years ago. Strict regulations apply: the quantity is limited and controlled and one must respect the doses. Controlling bodies come to the vineyards without notice to test the leaves. Should they find traces of not permitted treatments the organic or biodynamic certification is revoked.
Sulphur and copper are not systemic hence washed away by rain and wind. Treatment ends at the end of July and then the vineyards are left untouched until harvest. In biodynamic viticulture it is permitted to also treat the vineyards with (natural) biodynamic preparations such as Cow Horn Manure or Preparation 500, Cow Horn Silica or Preparation 501, Nettle’s or Equisetum’s decoction.
- To feed the soil, in autumn, one can use manure from organic sources or green manure. Green manure (image 6) is a mix of legumes that are planted between vines rows. They grow to about one meter and in May-June are cut and buried into the ground between the vines. Green manure supplies natural azote to the vines and the long root of the legumes herbs make the soil soft and able to breath.
In this kind of viticulture one tries to understand nature and live in harmony with it, not subduing it. The aim is to reach the natural balance of the plant and not its overproduction and exploitation.