When I was a child my grandfather raised bees on the family vineyard in the South of France. After World War II, we began to use pesticides on our vines and by the mid 1970s my grandfather, who was a physician, could see the toll that these poisons were taking on the vines, the workers, and the soil. He decided to revert to organic growing methods, and by 1980 we were among the very first organic wine growers in France.
I started the Organic Wine Company in 1980 to bring high quality organic French wines to the U.S. and to educate the wine-buying public about the benefits of organic viticulture. I owe a debt of gratitude to the people at the Pesticide Action Network — their research and outreach is critical to my own efforts as an organic evangelist.
Now, wine grapes are not actually pollinated by honeybees. However, organic viticulture is important to bees. The vineyard partners we work with use various methods of companion planting — providing habitat and forage for bees — and integrated pest management to grow their grapes. My friend Jacques Frelin, former President of the Association of Organic Viticulturists in France, highlights the benefits to bees in this way:
“Organic viticulture is favorable to honeybees because it does not use pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, fumigants, or chemical fertilizers which deplete the soil and cause harm to the whole ecology of the grape growing process. We use compost to create a thriving flora, which in turn attracts honeybees and other beneficial insects.”
Bees are continuing to die off at unprecedented rates, and pesticide exposure is a key factor. This is beyond tragic. We need to keep getting the word out to people and put pressure on lawmakers to protect bees from chemicals known to harm them. That’s why I am offering to donate 2% of all the proceeds of my signature wine, the Chateau Veronique, to the Pesticide Action Network’s ongoing work whenever anyone makes their purchase through this link: http://tinyurl.com/OWC-PAN
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