Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Could European Glyphosate Ban Impact Global Trade?

As a followup to the recent post on Pesticides and the Political Will, the potential impact on crops grown with glyphosate is registering on the ag industry's Richter scale. See Politico's coverage here.

In addition, to bring things up to date, the EU's governing body delayed a vote on glyphosate last week, delaying a decision until Nov.

A majority of residents in the EU favor a ban, according to recent polls.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Study Published in JAMA Finds Glyphosate Levels in 100 Person Sample Increased 500% Over 23 Years

Researchers from U.C. San Diego published a study this week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association showing that the presence of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, has increased dramatically in humans.

Sampling 100 humans in a southern California town, researchers compared urine samples from 1993-1996 to samples from 2014-2016 and found that the number of people who had detectable levels of  glyphosate in their urine grew from "very few" to 70% of the individuals sampled.

In addition, the amount of glyphosate in each individual increased on average more than 500%.

The study's lead author, Dr. Paul J. Mills, is Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD where he also directs the Center of Excellence for Research and Training in Integrative Health as well as the Integrative Health and Mind Body Biomarker Laboratory.

The press release issued by UCSD stated,
"There are few human studies on the effects of glyphosate, but animal studies demonstrate that chronic exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides can have adverse effects, said Mills. The authors point to other studies in which consistently feeding animals an ultra-low dosage of glyphosate resulted in liver disorders similar to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in humans." 
The researchers point to the dramatic rise in the use of glyphosate in the food supply with the increased use of GMO crops. Glyphosate is also commonly sprayed as a desiccant to dry out crops before harvest. Wheat (and therefore bread) and potatoes are the most common way most people ingest glyphosate.

Though the wine industry's use of glyphosate is not as dramatic of a story, studies like these are increasing awareness among consumers of the prevalence and dangers of glyphosate, giving rise to new consumer health trend that the wine industry has not yet anticipated how to come to terms with.


For a good summary of the animal studies on glyphosate, see NRDC scientist Christopher Portier's excellent presentation to EU officials which you can read here.

The EPA first declared glyphosate to be carcinogenic back in 1984, but later reversed its position after political pressure.

Pesticides and the Political Will: Europe and U.S. Moving in Opposite Directions - What It Means to the U.S. Wine Industry

It's hard to imagine a time when Europe and the U.S. moved so forcefully in opposite directions when it comes to industrial agricultural's ubiquitous poisonous brews. While populism in the Trump era is drowned out by anti environment and industry interests, Europeans are taking the bull by the horn and flipping decades of ag chem policies to protect their populations against scientifically proven health risks.


As the New York Times reported in detail in Sunday's Oct. 22 edition, it wasn't enough that Scott Pruitt was appointed to head up the EPA and forestall any positive action on climate change. The in-depth article, authored by Eric Lipton, entitled (in the print edition) Chemical Industry Insider Now Shapes Policy at EPA, details the Trump-influenced rise to power of Nancy Beck, a former executive at the American Chemistry Council, to the position of Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Chlorpyrifos used on California wine grape vineyards, 2015 (latest data)
California Department of Pesticide Regulation data
In addition, Trump's appointees at the EPA recently reversed a decades long move to ban the neurotoxin Chlorpyrifos, a deadly insecticide which was being phased out.

Chlorpyrifos was used on 25,861 acres of wine grape vineyards in California in 2015. That's 5 percent of the vineyards. The insecticide affects the nervous system and child development.

There is no talk of any restrictions or cutbacks on glyphosate (contained in the commonly used herbicide Roundup), at the federal level, which is now officially classified by both the international cancer experts group IARC (part of WHO) and the state of California as a carcinogen, but one with less immediate observable effects.


At the same time, as the Guardian posts, in a very well informed article by Arthur Neslen entitled EU on Brink of Historic Decision on Pervasive Glyphosate Weedkiller, France has already committed to banning glyphosate entirely, and other EU nations appear poised to phase the chemical out altogether as well.

The BIG NEWS of the day is that the European Parliament, in a non binding resolution, voted 355 to 204 to phase out the herbicide glyphosate altogether by 2022. More than 100 - 111, to be precise - abstained, reflecting the controversial nature of the ban. European farmers are up in arms over the licensing of the herbicide.

See European Parliament press release here for details.

A vote by the European Commission (which would be binding) on whether or not to relicense the herbicide is still pending. France, which had said it would phase the chemical out within three years, was said to have agreed to compromise on a four year phaseout.

This move comes only a few years after the EU voted to ban the bee killing neonics, still commonly used in about 60 percent of California's wine grape vineyards. Neonics have now been found in 75% of honey sampled around the globe.


Bee activists in Europe have already begun tweeting about California wines' use of neonics as a reason not to buy Golden State wines.

Dave Goulson, one of the leading bee scientists in the world, tweeted this out to his 8,800 followers last month.

Here's the distribution of neonics usage on California's wine grape vineyards (showing summed pounds). As you can see, its use is fairly ubiquitous.

Neonic usage on wine grape vineyards in California, 2015. Source: California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation data

Ben and Jerry's faced market pressure this fall after activists announced that glyphosate was found in its popular frozen desserts. It quickly announced it was launching glyphosate-free ice creams.

Wine grape growers in the U.S. should think clearly about what it will mean to consumers to be able to purchase European wines a few years from now when the continental wines are known to be grown without glyphosate.

There's a five year (give or take a year) window of opportunity for U.S. vintners to phase out glyphosate or face the consequences of a European wine industry that is sure to point out the difference between drinking American glyphosated grape wines versus European wines that are free of the carcinogenic herbicide.  Organic certification takes three years of compliance in order to be awarded.

The optics are not good here for U.S. producers.

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 Mendocino Wine Competition: The Organic Winners

Looking for a wine competition that has more affordable, organically grown options than any other? The Mendocino Wine Competition is the place to find them, since the county has more organically grown vines (percentage wise) than any other in the U.S.

This year Redwood Valley also saw more than its fair share of Double Gold winning wines, showing off its Italian heritage of organic and often dry farmed vines. Some are from head trained vines.

Here are the winning wines from the 2017 competition made from organic or Biodynamic vines.


Judges at this year's competition were particularly impressed with the quality of the Petite Sirahs, awarding nine out of 11 Petite Sirahs with Double Gold awards, including three from organic vineyards in Redwood Valley. For more on Petite Sirah's hefty pleasures, see Dan Berger's latest column on this varietal here. (He was one of the judges at the Mendocino Wine Competition.) 

• Barra of Mendocino - Petite Sarah - ($22)
From an old standby, founded by Mendocino native Charlie Barra, a local legend. Barra has been making outstanding Petite Sirah for decades. This comes from his Redwood Valley vineyard.

• Handley Cellars - Petite Sirah ($25)
Handley buys grapes from Vittorio's Vineyard in Redwood Valley for its well made Petite Sirah.

• Powicana Farms - Petite Sirah - ($32) (Also won Best of Class)
Powicana Farms is a new winery in Redwood Valley run by a French family. Their vineyard is planted exclusively to Petite Sirah. This is their first year entering the fair - and look, a Double Gold! The wines are made in the natural wine style, with native yeasts and no added sulfites. Sonoma's Press Democrat wine critic Dan Berger cited this as his favorite Petite Sirah.


• Bonterra - Viognier ($15)
• Bonterra - Zinfandel ($17)

Bonterra's two Double Gold winners come from Mendocino growers.

• Briceland Vineyards - Dark Horse Ranch - Syrah ($28)
From the gorgeous Dark Horse Ranch (owned by the Paul Dolan family) on the east side of Sanel Valley comes this 2013 Syrah from Briceland, a winery located in Redway in Humboldt County (just north of Garberville). It's rare to find single vineyard designates from Dark Horse, a renowned Biodynamic vineyard, as most of its grapes are sold and blended with other grapes.

• Handley Cellars - Primitivo - Vittorio's Vineyard ($25)
Another Double Gold from Vittorio's Vineyard in Redwood Valley from another old Italian family preserving its old, head trained vines - and dry farming them, as well.

• Handley Cellars - Estate Rosé - $25
A wine I can never get enough of.

• McFadden Vineyards - Late Harvest Riesling 
A perennial winner in the dessert wine category, this delicately flavored sweet wine has a place in my heart and in my cellar. (I have at least a case of it). The perfect bottle to bring to any occasion, including when you need to have a gift for someone. Irresistable.


Girasole Cabernet ($15)

Handley Cellars - Estate ($25)

Powicana Farms - Port Style Petite Sirah ($31)

Blue Quail ($18)
Handley Cellars - Estate ($22)

Bonterra ($15)

Pinot Noir
Blue Quail ($24)
Handley Cellars - RSM ($52)

Sparkling Wine
Handley Cellars - Blanc de Blanc ($52)
McFadden Vineyards Cuvee Brut ($25)

Green Truck ($18)


Philo Ridge - Haiku Vineyards ($19)
Frey Vineyards - Biodynamic ($16.50)

Pinot Gris
Blue Quail (McFadden) ($16)

Pinot Noir
Barra of Mendocino ($20)
Handley Cellars - Estate ($47)
Naughty Boy ($21)

Red Blends
Bonterra - TheMcNab ($55)
Bonterra - The Butler ($55)
Handley Cellars - Red Table Wine (Vittorio's) ($25)

Barra of Mendocino, Rose of Pinot Noir ($18)
Handley Cellars Rosé - Estate ($25)

Jeriko Vineyard ($32)

Sauvignon Blanc
Blue Quail ($16)
Frey Vineyards ($14)

Bricelands Vineyards - Dark Horse Ranch ($26)
Frey Vineyards - Biodynamic ($20)