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Feb 21, 2013 04:41 AM

French study finds pesticide residues in 90% of wines

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  1. Does this blow the organic statistics to hell?

    5 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      Well, that was my first thought . . .

      Then again, they only tested 300 wines.

      1. re: zin1953

        300 wines? For France, that's a mere drop in the bucket. Probably also depends where those wines were from.

        1. re: ChefJune

          From the other articles I read on these pesticide results, Excell Laboratories tested wines from throughout France. Though I don't know how the wines were chosen, I'm presuming the sample was representative. Can't vouch for that, however, and I saw no mention of how the wines were chosen.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Quoted from the article, in accordance with the permitted "fair use" doctrine of copyright (mentioned to pacify the Chowhound mods):

            >>> A study of more than 300 French wines has found that only 10% of those tested were clean of any traces of chemicals used during vine treatments.

            Pascal Chatonnet and the EXCELL laboratory in Bordeaux tested wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintages of Bordeaux, the Rhone, and the wider Aquitaine region, including appellations such as Madiran and Gaillac. <<<

            1. re: zin1953

              Well, at least there should be no fruit flies, when one opens a bottle... !


      2. But hey, that was fine pesticide, especially the '06.


        1. they also don't mention if the sample was "regular" or Bio wines.

          I'm not overly surprised by the results of the first group (especially given the small sample size) - the second group would be dismaying.

          1. Since the article says nothing about separating out Bordeaux Mixture--a copper sulfate and lime fungicide APPROVED for Organic Farming--in the study, I don't think it does anything to the Organic numbers. I mean, it's called Bordeaux Mixture, that lab is in Bordeaux and they tested heavily in and around the Aquitaine region. Why wouldn't a fungicide particularly suited to the region where it was developed and approved for Orgainic farming NOT be found all over the place?

            And for Sunshine: ironically, natural inorganic elements like copper and sulphur are allowable, in certain amounts, in Biodynamic farming as well as Organic.

            I guess I just want a hell of a lot more understanding of what was tested and why? Maybe the Ecophyto Plan has some extra money and wants to put pressure on the wine industry to begin conforming. What better way than going after a fungicide developed right around the 1855 classification (okay like 30 years later but still)of Bordeaux and has been used ever since around the world?

            Maria, you seem like the local "all things labs related" expert around here, what am I missing?

            2 Replies
            1. re: ellaystingray

              Well, thank you, but many things are a mystery to me here also, and I've already made the effort of digging into a half-dozen articles on these tests.

              We can't derive much meaning about the test results without knowing more specifics about the tests.

              What is still unclear is who initiated the test (has a bearing on results), and how the 300 wines were chosen. Were they a random sampling of French wines, and somehow representative of French winemaking regions?

              Were only organic or biodynamic wines selected? That would be very interesting if pesticides were found in those wines.

              Why were the tests initiated? Was some deception in organic or biodynamic farming suspected? Or were the tests designed to detect residual agri-chemicals in both conventional and organic winemaking?

              Which vintage? One or several? Some vintages need chemicals and others do not. Bad weather has a great deal to do with chemical use -- wet weather, late spring, harvest rains, fungal/disease growth, etc. Were the results averaged through several vintages?

              We know tests were performed on 50 molecules and all were below the legal threshold (nothing about perceivable threshold). That being the case, are the test results important, or nothing to be concerned about?

              We don't know if the established legal threshold for each chemical is where it should be for viticultural, environmental, animal or human safety. We don't know the synergistic effect of several different chemicals interacting with each other, and potentiating each other, even if those chemicals are at low levels.

              Finally, the reporting on the issue seems lacking. What did the tests prove or not prove? Are the low levels worth raising a ruckus over, or something that deserves further inquiry? That's not clear from the articles on the test results, and I dislike the lack of clarity in the reporting and the lack of probing to get at that clarity.

              I read PR releases about scientific studies all the time, and when I go and read the actual studies, it becomes apparent that the PR release is simply topspin or the agency writing the PR doesn't comprehend what the study proved at all. Often, some miniscule aspect of the study is given overblown attention by the PR machinery, or the PR release doesn't accurately reflect the conclusions of the scientific study. That inaccuracy gets picked up by the media and gets reported as truth, or as significant.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Thanks for the voice of reason ML, and for the clear illustration of how scientific inquiry and investigation should be applied.



            2. I own a vineyard so took interest in finding out more about this study after reading this article. I found an article in French and the two pesticides referred to were both fungicides - to my experience insects are rarely a problem in vineyards, we try to rely on ladybugs and lacewings to keep the bad bugs away and don't want to harm the beneficial insects by using insecticides. Fungicides are generally required except in the most arid climates because the wine grapes originated in Europe but botrytis comes from North America, and now botrytis is everywhere. Thanks, Columbus!
              The fungicides mentioned were cyprodinil and iprodione. They were found at a maximum of 0.01 mg/l of cyprodinil in one wine and 0.001 mg/l on average in the samples, compared to a maximum allowable in grapes of 1 mg/kg. The study found a maximum of 1.4 mg/l of iprodione and an average of 0,09 mg/l compared to a maximum of 10 mg/kg.
              I don't use these fungicides and am curious when they were applied. I did a bit of research and they are available in the U.S. If you read the Material Safety Data Sheets for these pesticides (just Google the name and "MSDS"), they appear to be among the class I would consider using.
              There are prophylactic fungicides applied early in the growing season and treatment fungicides applied after it is "too late." In my vineyard we use Stylet oil early season (organic - mineral oil, pretty much harmless) sulfur mid season (organic wettable sulfur, it can irritate eyes but otherwise pretty harmless) and then spray branded "conventional" fungicide - Elevate or Flint or Pristine (or perhaps two at two week interval) depending on the season and the humidity (I am west coast, so not as bad as east coast or mid-west grape growers). We typically do not use any fungicide after bunch close or especially color change (when the grapes soften). We have used Serenade, an organic fungicide, late season but typically this isn't necessary. Serenade to my understanding is a peach mold that doesn't affect grapes but crowds out other molds. The better "conventional" fungicides are quite expensive but have small re-entry windows. Sulfur has the longest re-entry window of any of the sprays I use (24 hours), but we typically wait at least 48 hours following any spray and longer after sulfur. We farm to reduce botrytis - pulling leaves from the fruiting area, keeping the grass between rows mowed to improve airflow - and this helps reduce the number of sprays needed.
              The Canadian Government has sent my wines to their labs for testing (when I have exported to Canada) and they have never found pesticides at detectible levels.
              I found this headline misleading and especially would have liked to have seen more figures on levels and data on multiple instances of detectable levels in the same wines (since that is the concern referenced by the director of the study) and types of fungicides and production levels to know how representative the selected wines were.
              In my humble opinion, the benefits of moderate wine consumption would outweigh any potential risks from these trace levels of pesticides. And the damage from binge drinking several bottles a day would certainly overwhelm any harm done by these trace levels of pesticides.

              6 Replies
              1. re: JoeLeTaxi

                <<botrytis comes from North America, and now botrytis is everywhere. Thanks, Columbus!>>

                I don't believe that's accurate. Chronicles of ancient Roman agriculture write about botrytis (la pourriture grise) on wine grapes, and botrytis is, after all, an Ancient Greek word. Those written references predate Columbus by anywhere from 2000 to 1500 years.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I agree with Maria - botrytis has been in the old world for a long long time. What came from North America about a century ago was phylloxera.

                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    Posidonious (135 BCE-51 BCE) spoke of phylloxera in ancient Greece, in an area that is now Turkey. He's quoted in the writings of Strabo (64/63 BCE–24 AD).

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Hmm- and yet the variety of phylloxera that devastated the European vines was American. Perhaps phylloxera varieties diverged a long long time ago. Wikipedia makes no mention of phylloxera's origins outside of America

                      1. re: kagemusha49

                        Phylloxera was widespread in Ancient Greece, and mostly successfully dealt with. Posidonious was the "govenor" of Rhodes when he described it, and even recommended a remedy to prevent the louse from destroying the roots and the vine. So I'm not sure that Wikipedia is accurate on this topic.

                  2. re: maria lorraine

                    Yes, my mistype - powdery mildew is from the U.S. The only accepted solution for phylloxera is American (resistant) rootstock. Although they tried almost everything in Europe when the bug was introduced. Phylloxera are sensitive to soil and moisture, so you don't find them everywhere - too cold or too sandy.