French Police Investigating Death Threat To Burgundy Winemaker Over Use Of Pesticides

Authorities in France have been called to investigate an anonymous death threat sent to Jérôme Chevallier, the head of a wine union in Burgundy, over the use of pesticides in local vineyards.

The letter, sent to Chevallier's home, was sent from an author who believes that pesticides have been responsible for health concerns suffered by winemakers and those who work in the vineyards — a contention that has divided the wine industry.

Last fall, a study released by the French Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS), a regional health agency, and Institut de veille sanitaire (InVS), the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance found that in one particular winegrowing village in Bordeaux, children under the age of 15 were five times more likely to be diagnosed with cancers linked to pesticide use.

Both glyphosate, used on approximately 70 percent of French vineyards, and Folpet, a fungicide used to treat mildew on grapevines, have been identified as probable human carcinogens.

According to, which obtained a copy of the letter, the author has demanded "the end of pesticide usage in the north of the Mâconnais" and warned that, "without reaction, sooner or later there will be deaths among the grape growing community." Police are treating the letter's message as a threat of violence.

In 2008, the French government launched a plan to reduce pesticide use across all agriculture by 50 percent by the year 2018, "if possible." Last week, President Francois Holland reaffirmed the pledge during a visit to the Bordeaux region, where he opened a giant wine theme park.