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Bio winemaker wins appeal over fine

Eco-friendly producer had refused to treat his vines with pesticides, in a case supported by various green groups

A BIO wine-maker on Burgundy’s Côte-d'Or has won his appeal against a fine for refusing to treat his vines against an incurable disease.

In a case that attracted the support of various environmental groups, including Greenpeace and France's Green party, Emmanuel Giboulot had initially faced up to six months in prison for refusing to protect his vines against the highly contagious flavescence dorée, which is spread by the leaf-hopper insect.

After the discovery of the disease in Burgundy’s Beaune region, the local administration last June ordered all vineyard owners in the area to treat their vineyards with pesticides.

An appeal court has now ruled that the prefecture had overstepped its authority when it issued the order for the vines to be treated, as only a government minister has the power to implement such an order “in the absence of a genuine emergency”.

Mr Giboulot, who refused to treat the 10 hectares he operates in Côte de Beaune and Haute-Côte de Nuits, told repoters: "This is a victory for citizen action. People are generally becoming more aware of the importance of cutting pesticide use. I'm hopeful for the future of agriculture."

He said he hoped his successful appeal, overturning the €1,000 fine, would "open up the debate" about pesticide use.

Mr Giboulot had refused to use the natural pesticide pyrethrin, claiming that all treatments are against the "biological equilibrium", a fundamental principle of biodynamic farming he has applied since the 1970s.

The case sparked a war of words between environmental activists, who want to defend organic farming, and the wine profession which wants to protect its vineyards.

A Facebook page in support of his campaign attracted more than 130,000 likes and an online petition more than 500,000 signatures.

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