A French organic wine-grower who refused to spray his Burgundy vineyard with pesticide was ordered today to pay a €500 fine for flouting official regulations.
The wine-grower, Emmanuel Giboulot, had faced a possible six-month jail sentence and €30,000 fine for refusing to spray his chardonnay and pinot noir grapes against an insect blamed for spreading a lethal disease known as flavescence dorée. It is attacking the vineyards of the Côte-d'Or region, where Giboulot produces côte de beaune and haute-côte de nuits wines.
Scores of Giboulot’s supporters, including Green MEP Sandrine Bélier, had gathered outside the court in Dijon to hear the verdict. The judge ruled in line with the prosecution’s demand that he should receive a fine of €1,000, with €500 suspended. Giboulot, 51, announced that he would appeal, and said after the hearing: “I still don’t feel guilty. It’s intolerable today to be forced to hide and to be frightened for taking a stand.”
The case has aroused strong feelings in France among the winegrower's supporters and opponents in the wine industry. An online petition criticising the potential penal sentence gathered more than half a million signatures.
Giboulot refused to comply with the official instructions on crop spraying on the ground that the insecticide caused collateral damage among pollinating insects, including bees.
He has cultivated his 10 hectare vineyard according to “biodynamic” methods, which supposedly blend organic farming with the spiritual forces of the cosmos, for the last 30 years.
The Côte D’Or region brought in the new pesticide rules in June 2013 to combat the disease, which first appeared in France in 1950. Giboulot was prosecuted by a regional branch of the French agriculture ministry, under article 251-20 of the rural code, for “failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard” the following month.