‘Mafia law of silence,’ complains activist fined for publishing about pesticides in French wine

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“They want to silence me,” charged Valérie Murat of the French Toxic Alert Association after being ordered to pay damages of €125k to the Bordeaux Wine Council and other wine world plaintiffs for having reported that an analysis of 22 bottles of wine boasting a “High Environmental Value” which denotes a “virtuous practice” did indeed contain pesticides.

Denouncing the presence of toxins at levels so tiny that they fall between 60 and 5,000 times below the limit authorized by the French regulations amounts to a “collective denigration of the sector” of Bordeaux wines, according to a court ruling in Libourne, France.

“These results show significant gaps between marketing, promises and the reality of professional practices,” said Murat to the online magazine Basta supporting her decision to publish the data.

Murat’s report says traces of substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic were revealed in the tests, and that some wines contained at least one of the so-called SDHI fungicides. Some biologists believe that even in small doses these are carcinogens, pointed out the activist who says she is driven by a promise made to her dying father who contracted lung cancer from the use of pesticides in his vineyards.

“There is a real omertà,” she said of the ruling, referring to the Southern Italian code of silence know to most people through their reading about the Mafia. The wine lobby is strong because it is protecting 50k jobs and anyone who discloses such information is considered to be “polluting the nest” —  using a French version of “killing the goose who laid the golden egg” – and has to fear professional and personal disadvantage, she complained.

Murat has already announced on Twitter that she will appeal the verdict. She has a mission, she said: Zero pesticides in Bordeaux.

By Milan Sime Martinic