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Bordeaux producers acquitted over fungicides case

Published:  01 May, 2019

A French court has acquitted two Bordeaux wine producers in a highly sensitive case over the spraying of chemicals, which allegedly provoked sickness in a teacher and dozens of schoolchildren.

The court in Libourne heard how 23 school children and teachers in the village of Villenueve, had complained of headaches, itchy eyes, sore throats and nausea after two Bordeaux wine producers had allegedly sprayed fungicides on vineyards during a day of strong winds back in May 2014.

Chateau Escalette, an organic wine producer owned by Catherine Verges, the Mayor of Villenueve, and conventional wine producer, Chateau Castel la Rose in the Côtes de Bourg appellation, were accused of inappropriate use of fungicides on their vineyards. The court however ruled yesterday that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the producers.

Michel Gadrat, lawyer of Castel La Rose, told French media that there was no evidence to say when any infraction over spraying had been caused.

The court heard how there had been nine weather warnings of strong winds of up to 32 kilometres per hour in the local Gironde region of Bordeaux. However, the absence of wind gauge in Villenueve, meant these warnings could not have been provided, making it difficult to evaluate the speed of winds. Defense lawyers representing the producers had claimed their clients had both followed strict rules when they conducted spraying at their vineyards.

French Association, Générations Futures, which took the producers to court, said in a statement, that it was evaluating a move to lodge an appeal against the ruling.

Environment concerns in Bordeaux have grown following a publication in August 2015 of a report by local health officials into childhood cancer rates in the village of Preignac within the Sauternes appellation which was ‘unable to exclude’ the link with pesticides sprayed on the region’s vines, and recommended lowering the exposure near a school.