Friday, February 13, 2015

Another Reason Why Organically Grown Wine Matters: Groundwater Contamination from Pesticides

Many of the organic or Biodynamic vineyardists that I talk to talk about the pride they feel in knowing that the water running through the vines they work on is clean when it leaves the property.

Therefore you'd be forgiven for not knowing what the other guys out there are doing. Because they don't say what the water is like when it leaves their vineyard.

When you buy that cheap supermarket bottle in the grocery (not organic) or even an expensive one from a high end winery, you may be supporting the kind of pesticide use that leads to groundwater contamination.

We are fortunate here in California to live in a state that requires pesticide use reporting. That way state authorities can postulate where the pesticide is coming from when state authorities are monitoring groundwater contamination from pesticides.

This video from the state DPR may make you wonder - well, what agricultural pesticides are they finding in that groundwater? And that might be a good question to ask. Because when it comes to the 90 percent of wine that is grown industrially over the state, as well as those "artisanal" growers, there are indeed neurotoxins, developmental toxins, carcinogens and more that are applied to the vines. It's not a message you're going to hear from the Wine Institute.

This video is in English, with Spanish subtitles.


The state's DPR has just published an update to its ongoing progress report. You can read it here. Chlorpyrifos is one of the wine grape pesticides mentioned in the report. It's in Lorsban and Dursban and other brands.

It's an old school organophosphate that's been linked to autoimmune disorders and more. It's become widespread in some of the agricultural areas of California. This comes from the Wikipedia article about chlorpyrifos:

"In samples collected between 2007 and 2009 from families living in Northern California, TCPy was found in 98.7% of floor wipes tested and in 65% of urine samples tested. For both children and adults, the average concentrations of TCPy in urine were lower in the later study.[48] A 2008 study found dramatic drops in the urinary levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites when children in the general population switched from conventional to organic diets.[49]"

Of course, the best thing you can do to prevent pesticide use is to support organic farmers and organic grape growers and the vintners who grow or buy these grapes.


Here is what the other guys are using (data from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation). These are the same statistics I trot out about once or twice a year on this blog, but they bear repeating. There are 52,000 pounds - yes POUNDS - of chlorpyrifos used on wine grapes alone on 25,000+ acres.

Bird and Bee Toxins

Boscalid: bee hazard, possible carcinogen
53,340 pounds a year on 239,940 acres

Chlorantraniliprole: bee hazard
3,877 pounds on 52,626 acres

Imidacloprid: kills bees and birds
44,040+ pounds spread on 189,885 acres

Methoxyfenozide: kills bees and birds
28,711 pounds spread on 139,978 acres

Carcinogens - Probable and Possible

• 1, 3 Dichloropropene: probable carcinogen
666,004 pounds on 2,648 acres

Mancozeb: developmental toxin and probable carcinogen
9,482 pounds over 6,465 acres

Oxyfluorfen: possible carcinogen
71,267 pounds on 209,122 acres

Pendimethalin: possible carcinogen
142,253 pounds on 68,146 acres


Chlorpyrifos: neurotoxin
52,341 pounds on 28,359 acres

Glufosinate ammonium: neurotoxin 
70,701 pounds on 114,843+ acres

MAP: CHLORPYRIFOS APPLIED TO WINE GRAPES (California Dept. of Public Health map/data from 2010, the latest year for which mapping data exists):

Here's where the chlorpyrifos is. I should clarify that this data is not showing groundwater contamination. This data is showing the application of chlorpyrifos to vineyards. From vineyards, it can reach wells.

Chlorprifos found in well water is heavily linked to a hugely increased risk for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other pretty dire autoimmune conditions. (Read on for specific citations).

Notice the applications are not just the Central Valley. There are more than a few Lorsban users in Sonoma and Napa counties as well as in Monterey all along Highway 101. Remember this is just showing the chlorpyrifos applied to wine grapes alone. (It's also applied to many other crops.)

Of course, this is one of the leading "bad old pesticides," nothing like the newer ones - like imidacloprid, for instance. Just kidding. (Imidacloprid, heralded as the latest in the long list of "wonder" chemicals, is now on the state's list of agricultural chemicals tested for in groundwater.)

Here are the maps for Napa and Sonoma counties showing where chlorpyrifos is being used on wine grapes. In Napa there is only one company that uses it, but they are the biggest single landowner and grower in the county. In Sonoma, some of the Lorsban users are prominent vintners.

The map shows 2010 data from the California Dept. of Pesticide
Regulation PUR that has been mapped by the California Dept. of
Public Health. The latest available PUR data (2012) has not been mapped
but shows 272 pounds of chlorpyrifos used on 162 acres in Napa in 2012.
 This map shows 2010 data from the California Dept. of Pesticide 
Regulation PUR that has been mapped by the California Dept. of 
Public Health. The latest available PUR data (2012) has not been mapped 
but shows 123 pounds of chlorpyrifos used on 65 acres in Sonoma in 2012.

You can explore the maps and data on California's wine grape pesticides at the California Dept. of Public Health here.

Currently the DPR is deciding whether to restrict chlorpyrifos sales solely to registered pest control advisors. 

Its press release on this matter states, "Since 2004, 1-2 million pounds of chlorpyrifos has been applied each year to agricultural lands in California." At the national level, the EPA estimates that 10 million pounds are used on agricultural lands in the U.S.

All this comes in the wake of epidemiological studies released in 2009 showing rural Californians drinking private well water in Tulare, Fresno and Kern counties had an 82% increased chance of getting Parkinson's due to chlorpyrifos being used in their areas.

(Unfortunately the state of California does not test groundwater for chlorpyrifos, having, for some reason, decided that it is not an imminent threat, but the UCLA researchers did test for, basing their assessment on known health risks and the assessment of other states).

You can contact your local ag commissioner to obtain a list of the sites and applications of chlorpyrifos in your county. Just ask for the latest Pesticide Use Report from the county. It is public information. Some counties (Napa, Sonoma) require sending in a form (which they will email to you) to obtain the data. Others (Santa Barbara County, for instance) just post a link to it online. It makes for interesting reading.

The state's Pesticide Use Reports are available online here. These, too, are broken out by crop type or chemical and location. Readers can read the reports for each county in California as well.

UPDATE: Feb. 22, 2015: I just found out that the EPA has issued a press release expressing its concerns over chlorpyrifos and worker safety. Its latest report states, "We are concerned about some workers who mix, load and apply chlorpyrifos to agricultural and other non-residential sites...We are also concerned about workers who work around areas that are treated with chlorpyrifos as part of their jobs." 

More information is also available from Environmental Health News which posted a story about the topic here.

1 comment:

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