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Sexual confusion in Champagne

Published:  23 July, 2008

Ugly bugs miss the mark

The ComitE Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) has launched a major initiative to encourage its producers to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. It has recently sent 15,000 of its members lengthy documents describing and encouraging the principles and practices of "la viticulture raisonne". The publications advise on all aspects of grape growing, from the establishment of vineyards, to nutrition, protection against frost and pests. Recommended techniques for dealing with pests include "la confusion sexuelle": male ugly bugs fail to recognise female ugly bugs and do not reproduce. The confusion is induced by saturating the atmosphere with aromas imitating the pheromones naturally produced by the females in less orgiastic quantities. Although growers are not obliged to follow the recommendations, they have given them an extremely positive response, according to Philip Court, director of communications at CIVC. He told Harpers that concern for the environment had been given greater focus by the BSE crisis, and that the motivation for the new project was as much bottom-up as top-down. He expected that many of the recommended practices would become EU legislation within the next ten years, and said that Champagne had been keen to take the lead.