Friday, April 10, 2015

Wine Industry's Widespread Use of Glyphosate and Neonicotinoids "Sustainable"? European Commission Says No on Neonics; U.S. Companies Start to Test for Glyphosate in Food Products


It ain't just the bees. Pity the poor ladybug as well, pesticide experts in the EU say, in their new report on the injurious effects of using neonicotinoids, an insecticide banned in Europe in an effort to help declining bee populations recover. The insecticides are used widely in the U.S. where there is no ban. Though they are predominantly used on corn seeds in the Midwest, neonicotinoids are also used widely in wine grape growing in California.

Yesterday the New York Times reported the following about a new report from European Union expert scientists on neonicotinoids:
"An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture."
The story went on to report:
"A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides 'has severe effects on a range of organism that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,' the report's authors said. 
Predatory insects like parasitic wasps and ladybugs provide billions of dollars' worth of insect control, they noted, and organisms like earthworms contribute billions more through improved soil productivity. All are harmed by the pesticides."
EU scientists had previously linked neonicotinoid use to health problems in humans, reporting that the chemicals affected children's developmental capacities.

Neonicotinoids are not prohibited under the Wine Institute's sustainable wine definitions nor under any other sustainability definition.

Here's where the neonics are used in California (on vineyards alone).
Latest state data mapped by the state's Dept. of Public Health showing the use of neonicotinoids in wine grapes in California
One of the most intense concentrations of neonic use in the North Coast is the area around Healdsburg and Geyserville, as you can see in the map below. Another area of intense use is along Highway 29 in Napa.

An earlier report on Dutch birds also pointed to the severe damage done to bird populations by the use of neonicotinoids, where university researchers found that as many as 35% of farmland birds died over a 10 year period due to low levels of neonicotinoids releasing into water supplies.


Also in the news, today's Reuters Health reports that labs are getting lots of new business from the recent announcement by the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) that Roundup and its main, active ingredient glyphosate, are probably carcinogenic. Wrote Reuters:
"Scientists says requests spiked after a World Health Organization research unit said last month it was classifying glyphosate as 'probably carcinogenic to humans.'"
The story reported that testing is revealing the presence of glyphosate in honey, soy sauce, infant formula and breast milk.

Glyphosate is a giant in wine grape pesticides used in California. More than 645,000 lbs. were applied in 2012, according to the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. (California has more than 500,000 acres of vineyards).

The map below shows the application of one of the most popular forms of glyphosate.


If you LIKE insecticides and herbicides being used massively over the state, by all means, keep buying that non-organically grown wine on the supermarket shelf. Support the growers who put these chemicals into our ecosystems in the soil, air and water.

Otherwise, it's worth your while to seek out alternatives, grown by people who care about not using toxics. And when it comes to wine, you won't pay any more - there's no price premium to buy the ones that are organically grown. 

Can't find organically grown wines on the shelves? Talk to your supermarket's wine director about getting some of the GOOD, organically grown table wines in the store. There's no reason for stores not to offer plenty of alternatives. They just have to make the effort and work with their distributors. So, don't suffer from bad Choice A or bad Choice B. Get the great wines - from affordable to collector quality - on the shelves.


  1. So good to know and disturbing. Trader Joe's has excellent and inexpensive organic wines.

  2. Yes they do - I recommend encouraging U.S. producers to become organic and buying wines from California. The TJ's near me here carries Bonterra, Rare Earth, Green Fin and others. They also carry the more expensive wines from Grgich Hills.

  3. I will be publishing a new web site that lists hundreds of wines from certified organic vines in the U.S. later this year.