A French organic winemaker could face a prison sentence and a hefty fine after refusing to spray his vines with pesticide.
Emmanuel Giboulot will appear before a judge in the city of Dijon on Monday after defying an official order to treat his vineyard against an insect suspected of transmitting a devastating plant disease.
The cicadelle, the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus, is believed to be responsible for the spread of the grapevine disease flavescence dorée, which has affected vines in the Côte-d'Or region of Burgundy, where Giboulot produces Côte de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Nuits wines.
Giboulot claims the pesticide is ineffective and damaging to pollinating insects such as bees, and insists the disease can be fought via more natural means.
The 51-year-old is being prosecuted by a branch of the French agriculture ministry, under article 251-20 of the rural code, for "failing to apply an insecticide treatment to his vineyard" in July last year.
The winemaker faces a six-month prison sentence and a €30,000 (£25,000) fine for refusing to spray his vines.
Officials say they have had to pull up 12 hectares (nearly 30 acres) of vines ravaged by the highly infectious flavescence dorée disease in 2012. They say the disease, which first appeared in the 1950s, threatens more than half the Burgundy region's vineyards and that preventative treatment by pesticide is necessary.
Giboulot disagrees. In November he told the website Decanter.com: "I am not irresponsible and I am not trying to be radical. I simply do not believe that systematic treatment, even without any symptoms of the disease, is the solution. I want to show people that there are options, and that we need to think about our own health and that of our customers."
Flavescence dorée (from French "Flavescence" : yellowing and "dorée" : golden) is a bacterial disease of the vine with the potential to threaten vineyards. The bacterial agent has recently been named Candidatus Phytoplasma vitis, and its vector is the leafhopper, Scaphoideus titanus. Infection may kill young vines and greatly reduce the productivity of old vines. It is classified as a phytoplasma disease belonging to the group generically termed grapevine yellows. Occurrences are in sporadic epidemics, and varieties vary in their sensitivity to it.
There is no cure for the moment and the way to manage the spreading is the uprooting of the infected plants.
Picture at top by Gus...