Scandal over pesticides in Bordeaux

Anti-pesticide-association judged guilty "denigrating Bordeaux wines."

A court in Bordeaux has sentenced an environmental organisation / Credit: Fotolia
A court in Bordeaux has sentenced an environmental organisation / Credit: Fotolia

The waves were running high. On 25 February, Valérie Murat and the association Alerte Aux Toxiques (AAT) were ordered to pay €125,003 in damages by the civil chamber of the court in Libourne for "denigrating Bordeaux wines."

The subject of the trial were accusations made by the AAT and its spokeswoman Murat on 15 September 2020, regarding the presence of 28 pesticide residues in 22 wines, mainly from Bordeaux. The stumbling block: these wines are certified in France with the HVE label (Haute Valeur Environnementale, or High Environmental Value), which demonstrates a winegrower’s commitment to environmental performance.

The Interprofession Gironde, along with 25 operators from Bordeaux, filed a lawsuit against this claim as well as its dissemination on several media channels and have now received justice. The court under president Valérie Bourzai justified, "the evaluation of the disputed article shows that the wines analyzed are classified according to the number of dangerous or toxic substances found [...] but at no time did the AAT and Ms. Murat decipher and analyze the figures they gave, despite the comments in the report about the careful analysis."

As the trade magazine Vitisphere states in its report, the Dubernet laboratory commissioned to verify the allegations pointed out that “the residues found in the analysis they carried out were very far below the maximum residue levels established in each case." For the judiciary, this is another indication that Murat's report was written in a "deliberately scaremongering manner," without any explanation about the dangerousness of the substances or about analysis results.

The defense lawyer of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, Jean-Philippe Magret, who filed the lawsuit on 21 October 2020, called it a big victory. For him, however, the most important part of the decision was that according to the court order, the disparaging article of the AAT had to be withdrawn on all media channels within 15 days after the announcement of the judgement.

Valérie Murat and defense lawyer Éric Morain announced an appeal: "Never has a 'gagging trial' so aptly deserved its name. It is the worst decision we could have had. They wanted the 'social death' of Valérie Murat - they are ordering it," the lawyer specifies. For him, the trial was “not about denigration, but about defamation." Morain said he was prepared to take the appeal all the way to the European Court of Justice if necessary. Valérie Murat, according to the specialized press, said she wanted to analyze the implementation of the conviction first, but stuck to her stance. "The so-called wine country, the first AOC of France, is protecting what is worst: Omerta! And they continue to protect their 'deadly economy' with the spraying of toxic pesticides from April to September at the expense of wine workers, residents and schools." itp

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