Thursday, June 25, 2020

Roundup: Win Some, Lose Some or Stick Your Head in the Sand


The big news today is that Bayer agreed to settle many of its Roundup lawsuits for $10 billion. According to the New York Times, the settlement covers up to 95,000 cases. Writing for the New York Times was business (not health) reporter, Patricia Cohen.

Shockingly (to me), "Individuals, depending on the strength of their cases, will receive payments of $5,000 to $250,000, according to two people close to the negotiations," the paper wrote.

The first plaintiff, Vallejo school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson was awardded $298 million which was later reduced by the judge to $78.

Sonoma County resident Edwin Hardeman's award was reduced to $25 million.
Judge Chhabria oversaw the Hardeman case; Mr. Hardeman (left) got cancer after
regularly using Roundup to kill poison oak on his Sonoma property
Both are in stark contrast to the $2 billion the jury awarded in Oakland to the Pilliods, grandparents who live in Contra Costa County. However, the judge reduced that to $87 million.

Still, these three judgments are orders of magnitude higher than $5,000 to $250,000, so one wonders how these figures were arrived at. If you got cancer, and it's life threatening, $250,000 is inadequate compensation by any standard.


The Times article continues, "This week, a federal judge in California referred to the agency’s pronouncement when it ruled that the state could not require a cancer warning on Roundup, writing that “that every government regulator of which the court is aware, with the exception of the I.A.R.C., has found that there was no or insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.”"

I am not sure why a federal judge (a Bush appointee) is able to dismiss the world's leading panel on cancer - IARC - with a stroke of his pen as if the scientists involved did not represent the gold standard on cancer risk assessment.

The IARC panel included many former top US government health officials who have spent their entire professional lives studying cancer risks.

IARC is unique in that it is not a regulator and therefore not subject to political influence. The EPA and other governmental groups are lobby-able. Yet, the EPA's very first pronouncement on Roundup in 1985 was that it was a carcinogen. That assessment was based on the same rodent studies that IARC evaluated in 2014-2015. (Strangely, this fact is omitted on the Wikipedia page about glyphosate). The initial lab testing by Monsanto was found to be fraudulent, as dead animals in the initial studies were thrown out, and the lab managers went to jail.

IARC's assessment of the data on glyphosate and the Roundup formula (which also contains many other more toxic ingredients) was exhaustive and definitive and based on dozens of animal studies in labs that clearly show its toxicity. Population studies have also been utilized to show that heavy glyphosate users have as much as a 41% higher risk of getting cancer.

Part of the issue is that Bayer failed to warn in its labeling.

So why on earth would the company still resist labeling and litigate this in federal court?

Even Judge Chhabria in San Francisco, who was initially quite lenient with Monsanto/Bayer in early federal court hearings (I was there in the courtroom and wrote about the initial federal Daubert hearings for Civil Eats in 2018), seems to have become more alarmed. After wading through mountains of evidence, Chhabria says publicly that the herbicide manufacturer was unconcerned about the product's effects on people.
“There’s a fair amount of evidence about Monsanto being pretty crass about this issue,” Judge Chhabria of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said when he reviewed the Hardeman verdict last summer. “Monsanto didn’t seem concerned at all about getting at the truth of whether glyphosate caused cancer.”

The verdict in the court of public opinion is in, though, and more and more wineries are being asked if they use Roundup.

"I see growers getting off of Roundup left and right," said weed control expert John Roncoroni, who works in the UCCE's Napa office. "Consumer preference is what is motivating them."

Their responses have been twofold - switching to a combination of two more toxic herbicides or adopting organic weed control practices.

"They'll switch to a combination of two herbicides to get the power of Roundup," he said.

Despite medical evidence to the contrary, the Wine Institute still thinks glyphosate is not a problem, posting this inaccurate and outdated information on its website.

Carl Winters, now retired, is not a medical or health professional. His degree was in agricultural and environmental chemistry, not medicine. And he infamously rode out to his retirement leading a song about how he loved to spray at a professional, continuing ed workshop for Sonoma growers.

The Wine Institute has enough funds to hire a consultant who can evaluate the literature and tell them the revised level for toxic dietary effects of glyphosate on humans. It is not 140 glasses of wine per day.

Furthermore, why do they feel the need to say anything on the matter at all? They don't put out "facts" on the toxicity of copper residues in wines, bee and bird toxins used in wine grape growing, or other health and safety matters.

The level of dietary glyphosate intake that leading scientists say is concerning is far, far, far lower than we previously thought, according to the leading scientists working at University College in London, the Ramazzini Foundation in Italy, epidemiologists at UCLA, UC San Diego Medical School researchers and MDs, researchers at Indiana University, and physician scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. There is a mountain of evidence in peer reviewed journals.

Why would the Wine Institute shun so many professional opinions that link glyphosate to autism, developmental issues, liver disease and cancer risks? Honestly, why?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Organic Growers Learn about Biodynamics in CCOF Webinar: Webinar Video Now Online

One of my pet peeves is the lack of education in the wine industry on how to become organic or biodynamic.

My first encounter with U.C. Davis was an ampelography class with Andy Walker. Across the way was the university's first organic vineyard demonstration project but - what a mess. Someone had accidentally sprayed chemicals on it and it would be three years before it could be considered organic. Such was the support for organic wine grape growing at Davis. (I hope this description no longer applies). Instead we visited the "conventional" vineyard, where we saw first hand how fungicide in the fertigation line could perk up a vine overnight. Until then I had not know that the plants were being forcefed.

Therefore, it is with great joy that I saw that CCOF and Demeter had partnered to bring a little bit of biodynamic education to organic growers last week in an online webinar. Now the webinar's been posted to YouTube so you, too, can enjoy it. If you are more interested in farming practices than certification, skip ahead to the presentation by Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate in Oregon whose talk and slides focus more on the farming aspects.

Rudy is a down home guy who has been farming wine grapes (and making wine) in the Willamette Valley since 2004 on more than 200 acres. Today he is the board chair of Demeter USA. I posted some photos from his presentation earlier this week.

Monday, June 22, 2020

New Study Finds Sivanto Insecticide - Used on 20% of California Wine Grape Acreage - Toxic to Bees

I was going to continue writing about the dangers of imidacloprid, a widely used insecticide to combat mealybugs in wine grapes (and banned in Europe in 2018), but I didn't even have a chance to finish that since this NEW study about yet ANOTHER bee toxin used on wine grapes popped up this morning, courtesy of Pam Marrone's Linkedin feed.

Here is a press release from researchers at Oregon State University, where a study funded by beekeepers looked at impacts on bees from two commonly used insecticides from Bayer. The new study implicates Sivanto, an insecticide used to combat aphids, leaf hoppers and whiteflies.

In California, wine grape growers applied 123,928 pounds of flupyradifurone (Sivanto) in 2017 (most recent data available) on 114,704 acres of wine grape vineyards. That is 20 percent of all vineyard acreage in the state.

What's different about this study is that bees didn't have to die to be affected; their lifespans, however, were signicantly shortened.

(This is in addition to wine grape growers use of boscalid and imidacloprid, other bee and bird toxins.)

One cage from each of the three experimental groups in an Oregon State University honeybee study. The control cage on the far left has more live bees than the cages in which the bees were exposed to Sivanto (middle) and Transform (far right).

UPDATE June 27, 2020

When I posted this article on Linkedin, one person commented - why would bees be in a vineyard? For microbial health and biodiversity.

Here are a few articles on the subject:

Decanter: Why Are Bees Important in the Vineyard?
"Famed viticultural consultants Claude and Lydia Bourgignon have been insistent that there is a direct benefit of bees pollinating vineyards, according to Rolet."
eVineyards: Importance of Bees in the Vineyards

France and the EU had already banned imidacloprid and boscalid back in 2018 over bee concerns. The two chemicals are also toxic to birds and have led to declining bird populations, scientists have said.

France also quickly moved to ban Transform and Sivanto in 2019 which means that no French winegrowers can use them.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The lives of honeybees are shortened - with evidence of physiological stress - when they are exposed to the suggested application rates of two commercially available and widely used pesticides, according to new Oregon State University research.

In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, honeybee researchers in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences found detrimental effects in bees exposed to Transform and Sivanto, which are both registered for use in the United States and were developed to be more compatible with bee health.

The western honeybee is the major pollinator of fruit, nut, vegetable and seed crops that depend on bee pollination for high quality and yield.

Coupled with other stressors such as varroa mites, viruses and poor nutrition, effects from these pesticides can render honeybees incapable of performing their tasks smoothly. Beekeepers and some environmental groups have raised concerns in recent years about these insecticides and potential negative effects on bees.

According to the researchers, this is the first study to investigate "sub-lethal" effects of sulfoxaflor, the active ingredient in Transform, and flupyradifurone, the active ingredient in Sivanto. Sub-lethal effects mean that the bees don't die immediately, but experience physiological stress resulting in shortened lifespan.

In the case of Transform, the bees' lives were severely shortened. A majority of the honeybees exposed to Transform died within six hours of being exposed, confirming the severe toxicity of the pesticide to bees when exposed directly to field application rates recommended on the label, the researchers said.

Study lead author Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, a postdoctoral research associate in the Honey Bee Lab in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, emphasized that the researchers aren't calling for Sivanto or Transform to be taken off the market.

"We are suggesting that more information be put on the labels of these products, and that more studies need to be conducted to understand sublethal effects of chronic exposure," Basu said.

Sivanto and Transform are used on crops to kill aphids, leaf hoppers and whiteflies, among other pests. Many of these same crops attract bees for pollination. There are some restrictions on their use. For example, Transform can't be applied to crops in bloom, for example.

Honeybees might be exposed indirectly through pesticide drift, said study co-author Ramesh Sagili, associate professor of apiculture and honeybee Extension specialist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"The average life span of a worker honeybee is five to six weeks in spring and summer, so if you are reducing its life span by five to 10 days, that's a huge problem," Sagili said. "Reduced longevity resulting from oxidative stress could negatively affect colony population and ultimately compromise colony fitness."

For the study, the researchers conducted two contact exposure experiments: a six-hour study and a 10-day study in May 2019. The honeybees were obtained from six healthy colonies at the OSU apiaries. In each experiment, groups of 150 bees were placed in three cages. One group was exposed to Transform, a second to Sivanto and the third was a control group that wasn't exposed to either pesticide.

Honeybee mortality, sugar syrup and water consumption, and physiological responses were assessed in bees exposed to Sivanto and Transform and compared to bees in a control group. Mortality in each cage was recorded every hour for the six-hour experiment and daily for the 10-day experiment.

While Sivanto was not directly lethal to honeybees following contact exposure, the 10-day survival results revealed that field-application rates of Sivanto reduced adult survival and caused increased oxidative stress and apoptosis in the honey bee tissues. This suggests that even though Sivanto is apparently less toxic than Transform, it might also reduce honeybee longevity and impart physiological stress, according to the study authors.


Co-authors on the study included graduate student Emily Carlson and faculty research assistant Hannah Lucas, who both conduct research in the Honey Bee Lab; and Andony Melathopoulos, assistant professor and pollinator health Extension specialist.

Friday, June 19, 2020

In Photos: To the Skeptics, Here's What Biodynamic Farming Looks Like

This week, CCOF sponsored a joint webinar with Demeter USA, the biodynamic certifier, to help organic growers learn about biodynamics. CCOF now offers dual inspections, in which a farm can be inspected both for organic and biodynamic certification at the same time, thus saving costs and travel.

Demeter USA Board Chair Rudy Marchesi presented photos from research conducted by his Tuscany-based wine grape consultant, Adriano Zago, who is also an agronomist who works with produce farmers. The photos are of Italian lettuce farmers and Italian wine grape growers Zago works with.

Here are some of the photos Marchesi shared, showing the dramatically healthier root systems of the plants treated with fermented horn manure spray (which is known in biodynamics as 500). Vineyard photos illustrating the use of the silica spray (501) follow.

LETTUCE FARMERS - Horn Manure Spray (500)


VINEYARDS - Fermented Horn Manure Spray (500)

VINEYARDS - Silica Spray (501)

Vines have perked up and leaves angled more toward the sun

The CCOF webinar will be posted online. I will add the link here when it is available.


Hear more from Adriano Zago on the Italian Wine Podcast in conversation with Monty Waldin.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Ballard Canyon's Beckmen Vineyards Launches Its First Natural Wines from Its Biodynamic Vines

Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards has gone natural - as in wine, that is.

Growing biodynamic wine grapes since 2002, Beckmen has produced hundreds of wines from his Ballard Canyon vineyard for 18 years, but this time, it's different - 1Ingredient consists of two skin fermented, white wines under the winery's new 1Ingredient label.

"As its name implies, 1NGREDIENT is wine made from one ingredient, biodynamically certified wine grapes," said Beckmen. No additives or preservatives (including sulfur) are used in the winemaking process.

"Besides the tractors we used to farm the blocks for 1NGREDIENT and the fuel we used to transport the grapes to the winery, these wines were crushed and bottled by hand. Except for the sorting, destemming, and the corker we used to make sure each bottle has the best possible seal, there was no other modern machinery used in making these wines" he said.

The first releases of 1NGREDIENT are both extended skin contact white wines, 2018 Viognier Ballard Canyon ($65) and 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Ballard Canyon ($48).

The grapes were fermented in Amphora made by TAVA in Northern Italy.

Said Beckmen, "We worked with TAVA to create these special vessels for our project focusing on the right mix of sand as well as defining the correct temperature the pots were fired at to ensure the right amount of oxygenation during fermentation and aging."

"We chose amphora as a look to the past as we tried to utilize practices that were used ages ago when wine was made without additives and the fancy machinery that we use in today. These specially designed amphora provided a perfect neutral vessel to ferment and age this type of wine, allowing the character of the grapes, vineyard and winery to shine through in each bottle."

The wine was fermented and aged on its skins for 10 months.

"The 1NGREDIENT wines are not fined or filtered and are bottled with a haze which protects the wines from premature oxidation," Beckmen said,

"This technique is an unusual way to produce white wine," he added. "The skins contain anti-oxidative compounds that allowed us to bottle the wine without the use of sulphur dioxide, the main preservative used in winemaking. White wines with long skin contact not only pick up the anti-oxidative properties of the skins but also extract tannins that help bolster the structure needed for the wine to age over a long period of time."

Beckmen tasted the wines over a period of several days, as they evolved in the bottle. Here are his tasting notes on the Viognier's progression:

Day 1: "Exotic, complex flavors of fresh ginger, caramelized apricot, jasmine, and citrus fruits lead to an elegant, round mouthfeel with balancing acidity and light tannins. Citrus fruits, floral, brisk peach, and a hint of coco highlight the flavors with good length and structure that carry the flavors on a long finish."

Day 2: "This has opened up to reveal more varietal fruits of apricot, peach, flowers, and spice on the nose... still super elegant with nice roundness balanced by some good acid and light tannin. More fruit coming through in the mouth as well with flavors of apricot, stone fruits, citrus, spice, and still a hint of coco...fresh and amazing..."

Day 3: "...still fresh and vibrant both on the nose and in the mouth. The mouth is where it impresses me, it is so elegant and pretty in texture and flavor, and seems like it will continue to develop and age nicely for the long term. A white that should be aged for a year or two, and decanted for an hour or two prior to drinking. This wine will easily age for 20+ years or more."

Watch it on YouTube: Imidacloprid, a Bird and Bee Toxin Featured in a New German News Doc, Doubles in Use on Wine Grapes in California

This week, my YouTube feed offered up this sobering 30 min. documentary on a commonly used insecticide called imidacloprid. It is toxic to bees and birds and in Europe, it is widely banned. Not so here in the U.S. where the corn lobby has made sure to keep it legal so it can continue using seeds coated with the insecticide.

Meanwhile in California, wine grape growers are seeing an increased number of vine mealybugs. Often brought in by ants, vine mealybugs also bring with them leafroll virus, the virus that used to scare the wine industry the most until the current corona virus surfaced.

I've been researching the pros and cons of different farming practices in the fight to combat the vine mealybug in California vineyards.

Imidacloprid use has doubled from 2009 to 2017 and wine grape growers alone used more than 79,818 pounds on 258,653 acres of wine grapes in 2017 (the most recent year that data is available for).

I'll be writing more about this topic in the coming days, but let's start with the video, as it lays the foundation for the rest of the story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Why Does Stolpman Vineyards Lie About Being Organic - Over and Over? And Where is CDFA?

It isn't often that I bring up a specific winery name in public for using toxic chemicals, but when a winery declares on its website that it is organic and clearly does not follow organic practices, it's time to say something. Especially when it has happened twice.


In 2014, I had the pleasure of attending the Wine Bloggers Conference when it was held in Santa Barbara County. I stuck around for a day after the conference to visit wineries and explore Ballard Canyon, which had recently gotten its AVA designation.

Peter Stolpman offered to give me a tour of Stolpman Vineyards' estate, which seemed like a good idea. He gave me a good look at the vines and assured me that everything was organic, praising the good works of his "grape whisperer" vineyard manager, the local legend Ruben Solorzano.

Though he wasn't certified organic, his website sported this reassuring, full screen graphic:

So I was more than a little surprised when I went home and looked up Stolpman's pesticide use report (PUR). Here it is:

Clearly these are not organic materials. They are conventional insecticides and fungicides. And they weren't used to treat a few little spots. They were over the entire vineyard.

I emailed Peter and he said he was under the impression that when they stopped using Roundup, they were now being organic. He said he would change the website messaging.

Two weeks later, I had bad feelings. The website had not changed. I didn't want to be an enabler of bad behavior. I emailed CDFA, who is supposed to enforce organic certification. The use of the word "organic" is limited by federal law to those who are certified organic. More than $1 million in organic certification fees funds organic enforcement and other organic activities at CDFA, the agency charged with enforcing the law in California. I did not hear back from CDFA.

Two months later, the website was still broadcasting the exact same graphic and false messaging. And CDFA had not taken any action. I wrote to CDFA again.

This was not quite the response I was hoping for.

It appears that Steve Lyle was not familiar with OMRI, the list of approved organic materials. The pesticides Stolpman was using were definitely not on the approved list. Admire is an insecticide that contains imidacloprid, a bee and bird toxin banned in the EU. (The UC IPM site has information about Admire.) Flint Fungicide is a synthetic fungicide as is Quintec. Again, the UC IPM site has information about both of them.

Finally CDFA found a way to write a letter to Stolpman warning them about the organic language. And the ORGANIC messaging banner came down.


The year is 2020 and I have just downloaded the Santa Barbara County pesticide use reports for 2017, 2018 and 2019 from the county ag commissioner's site. Someone I know is getting grapes from Stolpman and a few other growers and discretely wants to know what the growers are using.

I look at Stolpman's PUR. 2017 is clean but in 2018 and 2019, lo and behold, they are using Wrangler Insecticide (imidacloprid) on all 157 acres of vines.

I look at their website and I cannot believe my eyes: here it is. More organic messaging. Only this time the language is so much more floral and vivid. Ready?

"The Tunnel of Love...we rarely have to spray even organic fungicides." 

Left out: but we do have to use imidacloprid, a bee and bird toxin banned in Europe.

And there was more on the Stolpman website.

"We employ minimal amounts of organic fungicide and zero herbicide."

That's true, but what about the toxic bee and bird insecticide?

Peter's response this time was that he would immediately change the language on the website. Fair enough. He wanted me to tell him where the language appeared. Hello? But I did.

Stolpman may be organic in practice in 2020, but the wines for sale on his site are from 2018 and 2019.

(Let's hope the video footage of him on the new site home page - with his wife Jessica and their baby and toddler with Solorzano strolling through the vines - was shot when the vineyard was organic. Small children are at heightened risk from pesticides.)

And it would be surprising that after the 2014 interactions with CDFA's takedown letter Stolpman (whose father is a lawyer) was still not aware that the word "organic" requires certification.

The point is - certification matters. And consumers shouldn't "just believe" when someone says they are organic. Certification is not "we're organic this vintage, but not the next two." It means you are committed and consistently organic and there's oversight - inspectors, laws, etc.

I am proud to live in a state that has a pesticide use reporting requirement. We are the only place in the world with this requirement. But I am not proud of the CDFA's lax enforcement of protection for the use of the word "organic," and I am not proud of the way people in the wine industry think organic is something they can self certify.

And let's be clear - covering up pesticide use is just not cool.

Last week, somm, author and now vintner Raj Parr of Sandhi Wines seemed to not know that the beloved Sanford & Benedict vineyard (which he makes wine from and everyone puts in a "hallowed ground" category) is using conventional herbicides - glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium - as well as insecticides banned in Europe. It is likely that he and Sasha Moorman, who worked at Stolpman from 2001 on as the winemaker (according to Sandhi's site) source from clean blocks that aren't sprayed with these chemicals. But when I asked Parr, during the webinar, if Sanford was using pesticides, he said he wasn't sure and that the owners "had spent a bunch of money" on better farming.

Organic Wine History Aside: Let's also remember, sadly, that Richard Sanford started out as the iconic evangelist of organic viticulture in the Sta. Rita Hills, a tradition quickly done away with when Sanford lost Sanford & Benedict to the Terlato family who immediately converted it to chemical farming. When he had reacquired the vineyard, it went back to organic farming and certification. [Richard Sanford is no longer affiliated with with the property or the winery that bears his name.] Sadly, of the 357 acres of vines he planted and farmed organically in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA  over a 25+ year history - at Sanford & Benedict, La Rinconada, La Encantada, and El Jabali at Alma Rosa - none are organically farmed today.

Here's where Sanford and Benedict and Sanford Winery spent a "bunch of money" on their vines (according to the SBC 2019 pesticide use report)

• Spraying Makaze (glyphosate) on 29 acres
• Spraying Forfeit 280 (glufosinate ammonium, another "extra strength" herbicide) on 27 acres
• Spraying Lifeline (glufosinate ammonium) on 19 acres
• Spraying Wrangler insecticide (imidacloprid, the bird and bee toxin) on 70 acres, 9 acres and 30 acres

Since Sandhi, Parr and Moorman's label, may be sourcing from different blocks of Sanford & Benedict, where these sprays are not used, I would not want point at them or Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat (who also makes wine from these old blocks that Sanford planted) specifically. However if I were a vintner sourcing from this vineyard, I would want to know if other blocks of a vineyard were being sprayed, where those blocks were and what they were spraying.

It is high time for all somms to look at the PURs for any California wines they speak of. I can't believe you can be an MW or WSET level whatever and not be taught about vineyard chemicals and learn how to look at an individual vineyard. Collectors should also be as well informed. 

Back to Sanford & Benedict, and Sanford Winery, which we should be looking at.

Here's the glowing language Sanford and Benedict and Sanford Winery use on their own website in describing their vineyards.

We all know that it's legal to use toxics on vineyards. But why try to cover it up in such green-loving language? It's like finding your spouse is cheating on you. It's deceitful. And it gives "sustainability" a bad name.

Glyphosate, glufosinate ammonium and imidacloprid clearly have no place in a "natural ecosystem." And anyone using glyphosate is certainly not producing wines of terroir, as the herbicide inhibits fungi's ability to bring up flavors from the roots and soil.

The question is when will the wine industry stop using eco friendly language to cover up practices that clearly have no place in nature or fine wine?

Guys, you can do better.

Postscript: Guys, it pains me to write about these incidents.  This article was intended to spur discussion in the industry about green marketing and how it is promoting an unhealthy relationship between consumers and wineries - a relationship based on deceit.

There are other options. If you don't have the facts to back up your marketing messages, tone it down. Educate consumers on why you do what you. Don't try to pretend that you don't do what you are actually doing. 

The issue is not how you farm - you make that decision. The issue of this article is about transparency and accountability

Personally, I believe the industry is lucky that this story is just a blog post - it's not a front page story in the New York Times or Medium, which it could easily be. It is an early warning - an alert. The difference between what wineries say in marketing versus the chemicals they use is easy prey for any journalist. 

If you want to say you are organic, make different farming decisions - as many Napa wineries have done - and get certified. More than 10% of Napa vineyards are now certified organic. Of course, everyone will say that those wineries can afford to be. But there are 220 fine wine wineries in California with certified organic estate vines. And 80% of them are not in Napa.

If you want to be a green marketer, recognize the marketing challenges you face in defending the use of bee and bird toxins (boscalid, imidacloprid), pesticides causing the demise of monarch butterflies (upcoming post on this topic) and so many other environmental consequences of agrochemical use. It is not enough to wrap yourself in sustainability messaging if you cannot show the consumer that you are truly pursuing a path that represents the best you can do.

The 220 wine producers in California with certified organic vineyards do show consumers how wine at all price points and quality levels can be made - at no extra cost to the consumers. These growers farm without the most toxic chemicals. These wineries are able to put the word organic on the front or back of the label (depending on how they make the wine). They are able to say the word "organic" on their websites and in their marketing materials. 

One of the saddest facts in this story, to me, is that the Sta. Rita Hills AVA lost 357 acres of organic vines that Sanford farmed organically. What happened to Sta. Rita Hills?

Local Biodynamic Winery Suffers as Hipster Wine Shops Focus on European Imports

I called Martin Pohl, at Beaver Creek Vineyards up in Middletown yesterday, to find him a little down on life. "We have been on the phone trying to get loans," Pohl said.

Pohl of Beaver Creek Vineyards with his "Survivor,"
a Petite Sirah named for the 2015 Lake County fires
He was hit by the Lake County fires in 2015 and proved resilient enough to pull through, even naming his 2015 Petite Sirah "Survivor." A third of his 22 acres of vines burned, but he replanted.

Then more fires closed nearby Harbin Hot Springs, once the source of a steady flow of visitors driving by, for three years. The hot spring resort opened up again after a major renovation in 2019, only to close again this spring due to the pandemic.

"Only our distribution channel is keeping us going," Pohl said. (His wines are distributed by Mountain Peoples Wine.) His wines are sold in a few Whole Foods stores.

The small, artisanal winery makes affordably priced wines from only biodynamic or organic grapes. Pohl vinifies them in a pure way.

Yet he can't get his wines into the Bay Area's hipster wine shops. He's just not one of the "cool kids."

Yet, in my humble opinion, Martin is one of the very cool kids. He dry farms, he uses no sulfur on his vines, he is committed to organic and biodynamic practices (and certification) and his wines are very good especially for the price.

Beaver Creek's Fairytale Cab lists for the reasonable price of $29 and their Merlot for $24. Case prices are lower. Pohl just doesn't have a super hip website or a PR person or a heavy duty marketer. And he's in Lake County.

"We were planning on updating our website and getting new labels this year," he said, "but now...?"

So why won't Punchdown, Bi-Rite and all the others purveyors of local foods buy and carry his wines?

When he tried Dry Farm Wines, they said they do not buy wines made in the U.S.

"They say they would rather buy European wines, better prices. But what about local? I'm local," he said, "and our wine stores aren't supporting that. Why not?"

Good question. Organic and biodynamic, good wine, and LOCAL. Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A 100 Point Webinar: Vinous, Phil Coturri and a Cast of a Thousand Sips

For awhile, I was binge watching wine webinars.

With the debut of, it was easy.

Who could resist getting up close and personal from the anonymous comfort of one's boudoir with Michel Chapoutier, explaining his approach to terroir driven wines? Or fail to thrill as Elin McCoy revealed wines exemplifying Napa's newer styles?

The hits kept coming..."Master Sommelier Larry Stone [of Lingua Franca] Explores the Volcanic Landscape of Willamette Valley..."Masterclass on Organic and Biodynamic Wines with Britt & Per Karlsson"..."Heitz Cellar with Carlton McCoy"..."Rioja with Tim Atkin"...and on and on.

(Thank you to where most of these videos can be found. Note: though the videos are on YouTube, you must enter through the website to find them, as they have cleverly marked them as "unlisted" on YouTube so they do not appear in search results on YouTube. Is that just so clubby!)

At a certain point, I hit wine webinar fatigue zone and reverted to my previous programming - my real life - but made it a point to watch one last webinar: Moon Mountain wineries with Antonio Galloni and Phil Coturri, who has made the region an organic heartland for mountain grown Cabs.

And there they were - the gazillionaires and their highly prized blenders. The well heeled guys lucky enough to strike gold and spend their riches on Phil growing their grapes - and on the top tier talent to pick and press and age those purple globes into yielding their refined, subtle, thrilling flavors.

The history flowed, as did the camaraderie. Where else are you going to see screenwriter Robert Kamen egging former Disney chief John Lasseter about getting a case of wine? Or masters like winemakers Erich Bradley and Jeff Baker talking terroir? Or hear what happened the day Moon Mountain Vineyard caught on fire?

And at the center of his world, like a North-South Pole, was Phil Coturri, who persuaded these guys to let him rip soils, break boulders, and tap the volcanic treasures deep in the soils of Moon Mountain.

Galloni's new map of the Moon Mountain AVA was originally supposed to be two sided, showing the Mayacamas and Mount Veeder on the opposite side, but that county line cut it into two - an artificial boundary that annoys everyone on Moon Mountain. On the other hand, for wine buyers, it cuts the price of world class Cab in half.

The map definitely sparks insights. I had never realized just how close B Wise is to Monte Rosa. Or exactly how related Amapola Creek is to it, as well. See for yourself in the map in the video which also reveals the soil types of each vineyard and what's planted in them, block by block. What it doesn't show you is the real place, which you'll have to see for yourself with your own two eyes.

I spent my 60th birthday on Kamen's estate deck and had been totally unprepared for what I would find. Cosmic? Panoramic? Sweeping? Words don't begin to describe it.

The Lasseters spoke about their new Trinity Ridge vineyard, too, and released their first Syrah from it this spring, too. Those mountain grapes don't come cheap - it's $125 a bottle.

So if you're looking for some engaging YouTube wine viewing, and a little more fun than the typical, technical "these are the soil types" webinar, tune in and drop down on Moon Mountain in this special bit of live theater.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Data Driven Marketing In the Wine Industry

We now know that pandemic has launched a revolution in the way fine wine is being marketed and sold.

But just as chance favors the prepared mind, wineries who had already been pursuing digital technology and analysis of their customer data (obtained legally in customer interactions and from social media channels) were more equipped than others to, forgive me, zoom down the online sales path.

I pitched this story on data to Wine Business back in October, after writing a big article on POS providers and moderating the magazine's IT conference's panel on the same subject. It was obvious then that winery POS systems were collecting mountains of data. But what were these wineries doing with their data? That was the story I wanted to tell.

I interviewed the wineries and industry experts in Feb. before the pandemic arose (to meet print issue deadlines). Suddenly now it is even more relevant to the health and wellbeing of the industry.

I am grateful to all of the interviewees in this piece (and to all those whose comments I couldn't fit in due to lack of space) who so graciously shared their time and their insights. My hope is that this article will help wineries small and large prosper during these challenging times and in the future.

Consumers are loving the chance to get closer online to winemakers and wines, through online tastings. May it continue - and grow.

And wineries are finding it isn't hard as they thought to use digital channels, once they focused on them.

Hopefully this two way connectivity will spark more wine love and appreciation.

Read the article in the magazine (starting on page 78) - free with registration (view online or download100 page pdf)

Read just the article here (5 page pdf - no registration)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Costco Scores on Organic and Biodynamic Wines This Week

I don't often shop at Costco, but, in a new record, I went twice this week. And I was amazed at what I found. Often it's not exciting, but in both the San Leandro and Richmond stores I found some excellent imports.

In San Leandro, I went to buy Prosecco and found none. But I did score a beautiful organic rosé from Provence - Chateau de Beaupre - a classic producer - for $12.99 a bottle.

The next day (today), I went in search of Prosecco (for aperitivos for the summer) in Costco's Richmond store and found, to my amazement, a classic biodynamic Valpolicello from Cort Sant'Alda.  $17.99. Only 2,000 cases made and some came to the East Bay.

I also found other organic producers from the U.S. including Heitz Cellars' lovely Sauvignon Blanc for $22.99. It lists for $23.99 on, but at least it's at Costco (convenient).

In the red wine department, I found Long Meadow Ranch (Napa Cab) for $38.99 and Laurel Glen's estate Cab for just $59.99 (usually $80).

Costco keeps you guessing, that's for sure.

I will say the selection in Richmond was much better than in San Leandro.

Of course, none of the signage (with the exception of the back of the bottle of rosé) showed you that these wines were from organic vines, so you would just have to know that from having studied this for a decade as I have. That is not good.

Anyway it pays to acquire this knowledge...and I'll be teaching soon, so can share more with everyone.

Day Three: The Webinaring in Place - My Two Cents Reviews

The days fly by in a blur of webinars at this point, with new bits of knowledge gleaned from each online session.

Saturday's agenda was filled with a Frog's Leap webinar on sustainability, which I won't go into as it was pretty light on subject matter, and the humor filled patter between father and son has already been noted as a winning combo.

The Many Expressions of American Pinot Noir***

This webinar was moderated by Frank Morgan, a Virginia based wine blogger, and featured four Pinot vintners: 

• Janie Brooks, Brooks Winery, Oregon [certified biodynamic]
• Theodora Lee, Theopolis Vineyards, Anderson Valley
• Jason Lett, Eyrie, Oregon [certified organic]
• Christine Vrooman, Ankida Ridge, Virginia

This webinar was interesting due to the wide variety of the participants. Here in California we do not hear much from Virginia vintners, I don't think anyone hears often from African-American vintners, like Theodora Lee, so that made this webinar standout from the crowd. It makes you realize how much more diversity is needed in the industry. This was the first webinar I attended that had three women presenters.

As it was more informal than many webinars put on by wine shops or producers, it led to more intimate sharing of personal histories. I learned things about Brooks and Letts that I had never read in the regular wine publications, so that made this webinar worth the effort. 

I am not sure if this webinar (originally recorded on Zoom) has been archived for replay.

This has to be one of the best presentations I have ever seen about organic and biodynamic farming and wines, mainly due to the unique perspective with which the story is told. (Hats off to the marketing and communications team for this).

In the webinar, their beautiful narrative, depicted in prepared slides, was delivered by Spanish born winemaker Noelia Orts. She sat in a wooden shack in one of the winery's Chilean vineyards and spoke passionately and from the heart about the way the winery's vines are interspersed into the natural setting. 

Wildlife corridors connect the forest surrounding the vineyards so that biodiversity truly flourishes and is integrated into the vineyard, not just the edges. Insectiaries are not separate rows within the vine; they are instead planted in the rows between the vines.

This influences the wine, and Orts explained how, showing that the soil fauna was the source for the vines' health and flavors. The bacteria of the forest is the same as in the vines.

We have scientific research in California, conducted by Houston Wilson on vineyards in Sonoma and Napa, that shows how critical biodiversity of uncultivated lands is to plant protecion. Balance in the natural ecosystems relieves a lot of insect pressure on vineyards. But so far no winery, that I know of, has so powerfully shown this biodiversity approach to in their marketing of organic or biodynamic, yet it is a central organizing principle that has been in use for decades if not centuries.

On as well as 67PallMall under Previous Events.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Day Two: The Webinaring in Place Diaries - My Two Cents Reviews

Today, there were just two webinars on my list but both were first rate.

Gerard Bertrand Wines with U.S. Brand Manager Nicholas Galy and Lea Bonvoisin*****

Geneva Wine Shop in Geneva, Illinois offered two wines to local residents to accompany a tasting with Bertrand reps today and participants could appear in video if they chose. I wasn't able to get the wines (since I joined at the last minute and live in California) but the shop very kindly allowed me to participate as an attendee in the webinar.

For months, I have tried to get basic info - biodynamic production stats - from the PR firm that represents Bertrand in the U.S. to no avail. So it was enormously helpful to be able to get answers in real time from both of the Bertrand reps, who gave a polished presentation on the regions and farming styles across the Bertrand portfolio. The brand makes 1 million cases of wine and I have always wondered what portion was biodynamic, since this is a huge part of the brand story.

The answer? 157,000 cases, which is about 15% of production. All 550 acres of estate grapes are certified biodynamic and more in the certification pipeline. It was heartening to see wine fans on camera in the Zoom call, who loved some of these wines and another that the leaders promised would be featured in an upcoming tasting.

On Zoom

Tablas Creek: Neil Collins and His Son Austin on Esprit de Tablas Blanc and Grenache Noir*****

The father-son duo covered two wines in their Facebook Live online tasting. As the pre-eminent Rhone wine winery in the U.S., Tablas stands out for super star quality and variety. It's lovely that there are three sections of the visuals so you can relate to the vines as well as the wines.

The commentary was engaging and didn't feel canned, like some winemaker presentations do. Neil's history at the estate is a great asset as well, since he can compare vintages and vine development.

See for yourself on the winery's Facebook where all the tastings are featured.

Saturday Tastings:

3 pm Frog's Leap on sustainability

4 pm Pinot Noir

See VirtualWineEvents for details.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Day One: The Webinaring in Place Diaries - My Two Cents Reviews

Well I'm finding I have a lot less time now that I have discovered the incredible wealth of educational experiences available via VirtualWineEvents. They don't actually feel so virtual - since they're full of real people and real situations.

My first day of online wine webinaring consisted of four experiences.

1. Porto Protocol on packaging for climate change impact
2. WineDirect Online Sales
3. Napa Rocks with Matt Stamp
4. Oakville: Taste with Karen

I have rated them from one to five stars in the hopes that feedback will lead to improvement in the coming weeks. All comments are offered in the spirit of constructive feedback, or at least that is my intention. Everyone here has so much knowledge to offer - the trick is in presenting it online in a way that works, given the dynamics of online presenting.

Porto Protocol *

The Porto Protocol isn't used to presenting online content and it shows. Featuring three talking heads and one gracious host, it quickly devolved into a competition between the glass advocate and the flat, plastic bottle (recycled plastic) advocate that never spiraled back into data. There were no presentation slides. Good intentions are not enough.

Without slides, hosts definitely run the risk of not being able to get back to the topic. Porto Protocol has weekly presentations scheduled so hopefully it will be able to upgrade its format. I was hoping to learn something but what I saw wasn't heartening. It was squabbling. Again, without some concerete information being presented, a presentation risks being meaningless and a great opportunity was missed.  Boxed wines, a very eco-friendly and increasingly popular format in the U.S. was never even mentioned.

Free on YouTube

WineDirect Online Sales *****

WineDirect's online webinar was the opposite - well presented and with lots of great data. Having just written a 2,000 word article on data driven wine marketing that will be in the June issue of Wine Business Monthly, I was fascinated to see data presented here that would have fit perfectly in the article.

Facebook Lookalike campaigns with only a $450 investment were returning hugely significant ROI. If there was ever a time when the wine industry needed to up its digital marketing skills, this is it. And the webinar was brilliantly on target and illustrated with many real world tips and examples. Well done. Real success stories are the way to go.

Registration was required.

Napa Rocks with Matt Stamp *****

Matt Stamp and Connor Best did a good job of tag teaming it on the Napa Valley Vintners' Napa Rocks presentation. While Matt star performer, Connor would chime in with a question from the audience at various junctures, that added a little more interaction to the very well done presentation. Of course, these slides have been around a long time, but they seemed to be fresh again in Stamp's voice. This presentation gets five stars.

Free on YouTube

Oakville: Taste with Karen **

It goes without saying that Karen MacNeil is the uber expert on Napa and an old hand at the presentation game having taught for how many years?  Her je ne sais quoi interactions kept things a little livelier than they would have been without them, but again, the three Hollywood Squares talking heads (and no jokes) with host format was a bit on the dull side.

No photos of vineyards, no maps, no slides. So that leaves a somewhat meandering conversation about wines you're not tasting. No offense to the participants, who are all quite talented, but the format did not showcase their respective talents. Oakville vintners: maybe consider alternatives before you webinar us again next week? There was a map initially but it was left in the dust after the intro. Ir would be a help for starters to return to it so we could refocus on each location, possibly with more photos. Since we are not tasting the wines, focusing on how they taste is a tad abstract.

Another approach is simply a really good 1:1 interview, which MacNeil does so well on her own YouTube channel.

Presented on Zoom, but not posted on YouTube (at least not yet).


A friend of mine who's a big executive at Google these days was not an accomplished public speaker when he started out. But he worked at his presentation skills and was an avid Toastmasters participant for many years, practicing on friends, including one memorable occasion with me and some girlfriends in my hot tub where he gave us a speech he was planning to give at Toastmasters. Today he is a brilliant speaker who has dozens of trophies for public speaking. This is all to say, there is hope.

The takeaway for me from today's talks was the value of slides. When winemakers present to distributors, they have slides. When teachers give online classes, they have slides. While it may work to simply yak in person, online is more demanding of best presnentation practices and, unless you're Robin Williams, that includes slides. How else will audiences learn what you want to convey to them?

So, a word to the wise - yes, wineries and companies, we are watching, and we hope you'll get better at giving us the show we came to see. For those who are already there, thank you! And on with the show.


Next up, I'm looking forward to:

• Neil Collins from Tablas Creek on Friday

• Frog's Leap on "Sustainability" (Although They Are Organic) on Saturday

• Pinot Noir on Saturday

• Rhone Wines on Sunday

Find these and many other events at

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

And Suddenly There Was Life! Winery Video Genre a Work in Progress - with New Game Changing Network-ability!

March 30 - yes, just a month and a week ago - I posted that we were finally living in the Golden Age of Online Tastings. Suddenly, with Zoom lowering everyone's standards of the level of video production that was required to be seen in public, wineries, even the ones still in the dark ages, were able to find cameras, tripods and more and whip into action.


As this new genre unfolds, it's exciting to see. It's exhibiting the same kinds of stumbling steps that early day movies or talkies did. The first thing the movies did was film theater productions, until they discovered that didn't translate well. Talkies were a similarly transformative transition.

Today's winery video genre is no different. It has started out by imitating a show it already knows how to put on: the winemaker talking about the wines in the tasting room, or, gosh, for real excitement, in the vineyard.

The Wine Show TV Show Air Dates & Track Episodes - Next Episode
Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys, cast as wine newbies in The Wine Show
Contrast these videos with my other pandemic staple - The Wine Show, a fantastically watchable and incredibly instructive show (on Hulu here in the States) with two knowledgeable wine hosts and two stellar actors - the two Matthews - who play the role (sort of like reality TV, sort of not) of interested novices. Big budget, high production values and some very experienced television hands at the helm here. This must have cost a fortune, and I would say, it's probably the first wine series that didn't suck.

Compare that with the wineries' videos. Now yes it costs more, but winery tasting rooms and staff also cost a lot. Why so stingy with the video budget when that's your new lifeline? And your tasting room is c l o s e d.

Right now some online tastings are incredibly boring, some are filled with food and cooking and dogs in an attempt to be some kind of home based reality series. Some are hosted by humorous characters - I'm thinking of Frog's Leap and Tablas Creek. Frog's Leap's generally humorous personalities shine through in their father son duo. Two characters ARE better than one.

Tablas Creek's videos features the winery's shepherd Nathan in conversation with the winemaker Chelsea. (When I saw Nathan present on the topic of sheep at the 2019 Ecofarm conference, I thought he had missed his calling as a standup comedian. Now it looks like central casting has recognized his prodigious, native talent.) Having an expert and a non-expert play off of each other is a good format, as many a producer will tell you.

Sadly some video tastings just expose how male dominated a lot of wineries are. When you see the four guy lineup in their individual Zoom squares, it can just feel odd that there are no women.


Part of this was well captured in Amber LeBeau's blog post How Can We Make Virtual Wine Tastings Less Sucky? that really struck a chord. And while wineries search for better ways to film stuff (ask your teenager kids, please but don't let them involve models and makeup and a ton of Insta selfies), we can ask them to improve their game. We want to keep watching as wineries host these week after week.

LeBeau published some tips in her post for wineries on how to make better videos. Hallelujah. Having made PBS docs for 5 years (including with Peter Jennings and Joseph Campbell) and more than 50 films for Apple and written a bestselling book on how to make videos (before had even launched), I am grateful. Guidance is needed.

There are people who are actually professionals who can help you and they are very cheap to hire. Wineries CAN have fun drone footage for very cheap. Wineries CAN have restaurant somms come and talk about their wine, their region, their varietal. Wineries CAN have better backgrounds and maps and diagrams.

Singer Johnny Legend with
 Jean-Charles Boisset
If I were still teaching this stuff, as a first step, I would recommend that wineries watch The Wine Show.

While you don't need to hire a great actor or Hollywood celebrity (although some, like Jean-Charles Boisset have, doing tastings with Johnny Legend), but you can do better than you are now.

Look for the characters within. I used to cast documentaries - you meet a 100 people and pick 10 for the hour show or 5 for an Apple product intro on how people are saving the world with Macintosh. We used to look for people who were a little over the top, because when the pro camera went on, most people deflated. But that's no longer the case as everyone is used to video cameras on phones today.

Create little segments to break up the video. Have video roll-ins - i.e. little videos you can bring in to add variety to the show. Interview your pruning guys. Add a chef or a somm or a wine critic or blogger or super fan. Who is your oldest wine club member? Who is your youngest hire in the winery? Where is the furthest place where people are drinking this wine - Japan? China? Stories are everywhere, not just in your tasting room and not just about how your wine tastes. That's how you sell in a tasting room, but not on TV.


Today LeBeau announced that her partner, Beth, a former Googler, has launched a new platform for finding online wine tasting events.

Bravo. is a fantastic aggregator for online tasting events all over the world. Sort of like the YouTube we all need to find just the winery tasting videos.

It is free to the wineries to participate and also saves the links to archived tastings in a searchable database. What an incredible resource for anyone researching wines!

It also divides events into tastings versus webinars - a useful distincion.

You no longer have to rely solely critics scores or questionable consumer reviews or the faking it description from a newbie wine store clerk. (There are also great wine store clerks who generously share their knowledge. - find them and keep them!) But now you can go directly to the source. This is world changing for global wine - the sewing that can stitch the quilt together.

I look forward to checking out the scene and seeing how this new genre evolves.


Thanks to Virtual Wine Events, I'm now looking forward to these online events this week:

• In the Bordeaux Vineyard (at 10 am today)

• The Dish on Dirt with the Society of Wine Educators

• Matt Stamp (MW) on Napa Valley terroir with the Napa Valley Vintners

• Taste with Karen - The Great Wines of Oakville

And about so many more.

Sorry, gotta go! I have to join Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW and "dive deep into the Bordeaux vineyard, exploring the climate, soils and grape varieties planted....and look at traditional vineyard practices and how these are evolving and how they shape the styles and quality of the wines produced." (Update: The webinar did not actually deliver on this premise, though).

Bring it on.

See: how it went.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

VIDEO: Enjoy a Love Letter to Biodynamic Agriculture (From Kiss the Ground)

So many videos take a technical approach to trying to explain biodynamic. Who was Rudolph Steiner? What are the preps? Is farming by the moon for real? Our common questions are mostly not on target because biodynamics is not about these bits and pieces.

This video gets it's regenerative agriculture that farms with life.

You can also catch the follow on podcast with Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estate here.

Once you've seen it, hop on over to, to explore the more than 50 producers who make wine in the U.S. from biodynamic grapes and check out 250 wines. There are also 100+ wines under $25 for daily drinking.

Visit and subscribe ($25 a year):

And...coming soon...classes on Biodynamic Wines! I'll be announcing more details here soon, or signup for the free email list at

Friday, May 1, 2020

Instagram: It's Not Just Eye Candy Any More

In the era of the pandemic, wineries are waking up to the possibilities of digital marketing.

Here's my new article (featured in the promo photo on the left)
Levels of the Game: Game-Changing Moves on Instagram on how some wineries are powering up their Instagram campaigns and getting results.

Thanks to industry marketing expert, Taylor Eason, and Tablas Creek's social media marketing manager Ian Consoli for their comments.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Ridge Vineyards Organic Seminar - Today at 4! Don't Miss This One

One of my heroes in the world of organic viticulture is Ridge Vineyards vineyard director David Gates who tends some of California's most cherished vines.

Number one on the list is Monte Bello, the famous Ridge Vineyards site in Cupertino where the legendary Monte Bello wine comes from. Others include Geyserville, an old vine vineyard in Sonoma County, with some of the oldest vines in the state - planted in the 1880s.

Over more than a decade, David has converted 270 acres of Ridge's vineyards to organic certification.

He and winemakers Eric Baugher and John Olney will speak online today about their organic farming and four wines that come from those vines.

This is a RARE opportunity to hear Ridge weigh in on this topic.

Monday, April 20, 2020

French Researchers Find Glyphosate Link to Breast Cancer, Leads to More Aggressive Cancer, Also Strikes Younger Women

Institut de Cancérologie de l'Ouest à Angers

I missed this study when it first came out, but am glad to share it this week since it's an important chapter in the medical detective novel about herbicides that we are living in the middle of.

French cancer researchers have found that glyphosate causes cancer when it's combined with other risk factors. (Cancers usually develop as a result of multiple factors.)

In studies with rats, the researchers found that when glyphosate was combined with molecules linked to oxidative stress, more cancers resulted. Oxidative stress is the result of aging, smoking, alcohol, diet or other factors. Oxidative stress changes the structure of the genome of the breast, which can accelerate the growth of cancer.

"Especially, herbicides have been increasingly recognized as epigenetic modifiers," the studies' authors wrote in their introduction to the paper published in Frontiers in Genetics.

Glyphosate not only promoted cancer development, it also supercharged cancer both in the disease's severity and target.

• 50% of the rats in the study got cancer

• Cancer growth was more aggressive

• The type of cancer it accelerated is one that attacks younger women

“What was particularly alarming about the tumor growth was that it wasn’t the usual type of breast cancer we see in older women,” Sophie Lelièvre said. “It was the more aggressive form found in younger women, also known as luminal B cancer.”

Lelièvre is a professor of cancer pharmacology at Purdue, which also participated in the study, and serves as the co-leader of Purdue's International Breast Cancer & Nutrition project, a group of medical researchers around the globe.

“This is a major result and nobody has ever shown this before,” says Sophie Lelièvre, professor of cancer pharmacology in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Showing that glyphosate can trigger tumor growth, when combined with another frequently observed risk, is an important missing link when it comes to determining what causes cancer. ”

Read the rest of the story from Purdue here or coverage from Sustainable Pulse here.

The scientific article can be found here.