France is Europe’s biggest pesticide user with an average of 5.4kgs. of pesticide used per hectare per year. Although then situation is improving, irremedial damage has unfortunately been done.
Here are some of the official statistics:
France has the ugly reputation of being the biggest user of pesticides in Europe. French farmers use the same quantity of insecticides as American farmers on a land area 10 times smaller !
The figures are coming down however, according to the Pesticide Residue Observatory. In 2001 100,000 tonnes were used compared to 76,000 tonnes in 2004, a reduction of 24%. But these figures should be taken with caution, as the new pesticides used are more potent and therefore more poisonous !
The biggest consumers of pesticides are cereal crops, corn, rapeseed and vines. In general, 80% of pesticides are used on 40% of the Useful Agricultural Surface (UAS).
Winegrowers hold the sad record of using 20% of total pesticide tonnage on just 3% of the UAS ! Needless to say, this intensive use of pesticides has a damaging effect on the soil. According to the French Environmental Institute, heavy damage has been caused : in 2004, half of the waterways and a third of the ground water tested showed high levels of pesticide residue.
According to the Movement for the Rights and Respect of Future Generations (MRRFG), these pesticides are also to be found in our food and especially in over 50% of the fruit and vegetables produced by intensive farming !
Vineyards and wine are especially guilty in this respect. A study carried out by the Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN-Europe) and supported by the MRRFG, shows that 100% of conventional wines (organic and intensive) are contaminated by pesticides. Some samples tested showed an average of 4 residual pesticides, while others contained up to 10 different pesticides ! Given that these chemical products have damaging effects on health (hormonal disturbances, fertility problems, detrimental effects on the development of the foetus...) maybe it is time to react !
The French government, following the Grenelle Agreement on the environment, has promised to reduce by half the quantity of pesticides used within 10 years. By 2010, 53 dangerous molecules will be withdrawn from the market or their use will be halved. 1,500 “worrying” products are scheduled to be removed by the end of 2008.
This first step in the right direction should be accompanied by the encouragement of organic agricultural practises, for the benefit of both the producers and the consumers.