Thursday, May 9, 2019

Biggest Little Farm Film - A Farm Love Story - Debuts May 10

It's the agrarian ideal for many urbanites—writ large. Take your dog to the country, buy a farm and STAY THERE.

 That's the heartwarming story that audiences at Mill Valley Film Festival fell for, hook line and sinker, last fall when I first saw this new documentary feature.

Now the film is coming out this week in major markets. It will arrive in the SF Bay area May 17.

You can follow developments on the movie website or on Twitter.

Although the film never mentions the word "biodynamic," Apricot Lane is a Demeter certified biodynamic farm. Wine people will want to see the film to see Allan York, a top biodynamic consultant, who appears in the film; he was Apricot Lane's main advisor until his untimely death in his early 60s.

Andrew Beedy, another top biodynamic consultant, also worked  with Allan at Apricot Lane and continued the work after York passed away.

York worked with many northern California wineries to implement biodynamics. Among them:
• Bonterra and Dark Horse Ranch. At Bonterra, many of the beautiful garden structures he created are still present.
• Benziger Family in Sonoma, the first Demeter certified winery in Sonoma County
• Cowhorn, a top Rhone producer in southern Oregon

Beedy is currently working with Troon Vineyards in southern Oregon as it converts to biodynamic practices and certification.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Copper Use in California: Mainly on Conventional Vineyards


Toxic fungicides, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides are routinely used in large quantities and applied most frequently and intensively in the "fine wine" growing regions of Sonoma and Napa as well as in Lodi, as you can see in this map below from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation's most recent report showing the active ingredients applied to wine grape vineyards in 2016.

(The 2017 report is due out in June).

While sulfur is the most frequently applied active ingredient, glyphosate, copper and oils are commonly applied.

The 2 percent of vineyards in California that are organic may use sulfur, copper and oils, but the vast majority of these materials is used in conventional vineyards (98 percent of vineyards in California).

Despite the widely publicized growth of industry sponsored sustainability programs, pesticide use is increasing, not declining, the report states. It says (page 119), "The long term trend over the last two decades is an increasing area treated for all pesticide types except for sulfur which has tended to fluctuate more annually (Figure 37)."

Copper, this chart suggests, is used on 400,000 acres of grape vines.

California has about 550,000 acres of planted wine grape vines.

Science! New Seralini Study on Copper: Conventional Wines Contain 10 Times More Copper than Organically Grown Wines—And You Can Taste the Difference

I have decided to publish this press release about groundbreaking scientific research from Professor Seralini in its entirety (below) in order to let him and his co-authors speak for their research directly. 

Often people who have heard about the French argument over copper assume that California's organic vineyards rely on copper to the same extent that French organic growers do. The data shows that conventional growers in California use almost all of the copper that is used on wine grapes. 

But Seralini's real point is that regulators should be looking at the ingredients (often kept secret) in many conventional fungicides (that include copper), and should regulate all vineyard pesticides on the basis of toxicity. Singling out copper does not reflect an accurate risk assessment, he says. 

I have also published a companion post with a few excerpts from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation statistics showing the widespread use of copper and other fungicides in all vineyards in California.


[Editor's Note: I , Pam, have added boldings.]

Citation May 2019: Seralini GE, Douzelet J, Halley JC (2019) Copper in Wines and Vineyards: Taste and Comparative Toxicity to Pesticides. Food Nutr J 9: 196. DOI: 10.29011/2575-7091.100096

Other related research papers:

"Copper is generally considered to be a biopesticide that should be more regulated in organic vineyards, as it is the major treatment applied.

[Editor's note: I would add "in France". In California, pesticide use statistics show that conventional vineyards use far more copper than organic ones.]

There is currently a heated debate on this topic. In order to advance understanding of this issue, the authors studied the levels of copper in organic and non-organic wines and investigated whether this substance modified their taste.

They also compared the toxicity of copper to that of synthetic pesticides at the levels of human health and the environment.

Copper is found at an average level of 0.15 mg/l in organic wines and at a level ten times higher, at up to 1.5 mg/l or more, in non-organic ones. 

This is probably because of its presence in the commercial formulations of petroleum-based synthetic pesticides, which contain several heavy metals that are transferred to the grapes.

Vines are among the crop plants that are most heavily treated with pesticides, except when grown organically.

The environmental impact of copper in organic vineyards under normal treatment (a few kg/ha) appears to be positive, in that it improves biodiversity, in contrast with the impact of synthetic pesticides, which gradually desiccate the soil.

Copper is essential for life. It stimulates the defense systems of plants and the human immune system and is toxic only in excess. Copper is not primarily a pesticide but is an essential element for life.

It is nontoxic at the levels found in wines. However, at levels present in nonorganic wines, it clearly changes their taste. 

For comparison, we found that a favourably judged (awarded 100/100 in the Parker Guide) non-organic bottle of wine contained 146 μg/l of boscalid, a widely used synthetic pesticide.

If we consider the formulants and residues present in numerous pesticides, such as petroleum and arsenic or other heavy metals, the threshold of chronic toxicity will be reached from the consumption of 22 ml of this wine.

Similar results are obtained for fenhexamid and glyphosate in Roundup, which are widely used in non-organic vineyards and have a considerably higher toxicity than an excess of copper.

Copper cannot therefore be considered as being comparable with the synthetic petroleum-derived pesticides that are present in nonorganic wines.

If regulatory agencies are to regulate the use of copper, they should first release the composition of synthetic pesticide formulations, which are currently kept confidential, as they could contain copper together with toxic heavy metals."

New Study Finds Consistent and Persistent Confusion on Greenwashing Labels: 43% Think "Natural" or 'Sustainable" = No Pesticides

Consumers are fairly consistent when it comes to greenwashing in labeling: 43% of those recently surveyed think that natural means no pesticides, according to new research from the Hartman Group published today.


 This aligns with previous studies by Christian Miller's Full Glass Research in which 43% of consumers thought "sustainable" wine was from organic grapes. (See second to last row, right column).

The takeaway? Organic messaging for wine and food products hasn't gone far enough.