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Rebel winemaker set to fight fine

Bio-vintner announces intention to appeal against fine imposed for refusing to spray vines against disease

A BIO wine-maker on Burgundy’s Côte-d'Or has announced his intention to appeal against a €1,000 fine, half of which has been suspended, for refusing an order 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 faced up to six months in prison and a fine of €30,000 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.

But eco-friendly wine-maker Mr Giboulot refused to treat the 10 hectares he operates in Côte de Beaune and Haute-Côte de Nuits.

He refused even 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.

Supporters of Mr Giboulot insist the prefecture had overstepped its authority, claiming that a government minister alone had the power to implement such an order “in the absence of a genuine emergency”.

In 2003, they said, an outbreak in the region had been effectively controlled with a geographically limited response, rather than by insisting the entire department’s vineyards be treated.

But officials insisted Mr Giboulot spraying was vital to save vineyards across the region.

Olivier Lapotre, the head of the local food department, said: “All vines must be treated by everyone for the treatment to work. It's a deadly disease and very contagious. Because of this, such measures are obligatory.”

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