French Winemaker Faced Possible Jail Time, Fine for Refusing Pesticides

Emmanuel Giboulot

Emmanuel GiboulotAmerican farmers are far from the only ones feeling the pressure to douse their crops with dangerous pesticides, and it’s not only in the U.S. that organic growers are fighting for their right to produce toxin-free harvests. One organic winemaker in France was facing a possible 6 months in jail after he ignored a court order that mandated he spray his grapes with pesticides.

According to VoiceofRussia, Emmanuel Giboulot operates an organic vineyard in eastern France. His operation is biodynamic, or is described as a farm that “functions as a whole organism and relies on both organic biological practices and metaphysical practices.”

Biodynamic farmers see their land and what grows on it as possessing its own lifeforce, one that depends on a toxin-free environment.
Where Giboulot lives, however, toxins are the order of the day. The city of Dijon requires farmers to use Pyrevent, a pesticide that prevents the spread of flavescence doree, a grapevine disease caused by the Scaphoideus titanus, or leafhopper.

Though Pyrevent may prevent the disease, it also upsets the balanced ecosystem on Giboulot’s property and elsewhere. It destroys other insects, is toxic to animals and other plants, and has unknown effects on human health.

“I don’t want to undo decades of work applying a treatment where the effects on the health of the vines, and the public, are as yet unproved,” said Giboulot, who inherited the vineyard from his father and converted it to organic methods in the 1970s.

Read: Florida Couple Forced to Dig Up 17-Year-Old Organic Garden

While biodynamic farming has principles in common with organic farming, it’s more complex.

An article originally published in Stella Natura in 1995, described it this way:

“Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather than an assemblage of methods and techniques.”

The method builds on the work of Rudolf Steiner, which integrated “precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit.” In this way, the Earth itself is seen as a living being and all of the components of life—plants, animals, humans—as mere extensions of the whole.

As of last week, some 40,000 people signed a petition in support of Giboulot, who had his day in court on April 7. Ultimately, he was fined for his refusal to spray, but he plans an appeal.

“I still don’t feel guilty. It’s intolerable today to be forced to hide and to be frightened for taking a stand,” he said.