Updated: Tuesday, 08 April 2014 03:22 | By Agence France-Presse

French organic winemaker fined for shunning pesticides

A French court on Monday fined a Burgundy winemaker 500 euros for defying a government order to use pesticides in his organic vineyard to prevent an infectious disease caused by a leaf-hopping insect.

French organic winemaker fined for shunning pesticides

French winemaker Emmanuel Giboulot posing in his domain's wine cellar, in Beaune, eastern France on February 24, 2014 - by Jeff Pachoud

The case of Emmanuel Giboulot became a cause celebre among environmentalists and he theoretically risked six months in prison and a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($41,000).

But Giboulot got handed a fine of 1,000 euros, in line with the prosecutor's demand for whittled-down fine, and half of the amount was suspended.

"I do not feel guilty in any way. It's intolerable that one has to hide and be scared whenever one takes up a certain position," Giboulot said after the ruling in Dijon, in the wine-making Burgundy region.

Giboulot was pursued by an arm of the agriculture ministry for not heeding a local directive in Burgundy's Cote d'Or area to regularly treat vines against the "flavescence doree" disease.

Giboulot said he was not opposed to treating vines under threat but likened the order to recommending chemotherapy to prevent cancer.

Flavescence doree first appeared in 1949 in France's southwestern Armagnac region. It then spread steadily to areas including Cognac, Languedoc, northern and southern Rhone, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. 

There is no cure for the bacterial infection, which can kill young vines and greatly reduce the productivity of older ones.

After the discovery of the disease in Burgundy's Beaune region, the local administration last June ordered all vineyard owners in the Cote d'Or area to treat their vineyards with pesticides.

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