July 29, 2021

In France, organic crops contaminated by a widely used and volatile herbicide

From “Anger” and“Incomprehension”. When Mathilde Siguré learned that her first “organic” buckwheat harvest, after two years of conversion, was good for the bucket because of a pesticide, the blow was hard to take: “A big disappointment, a huge mess. “ His two plots of eight and six hectares, near Dreux, in Eure-et-Loir, were contaminated with prosulfocarb, a herbicide widely used in particular in the cultivation of cereals and potatoes. In one of its batches, the levels found exceed up to 100 times the maximum authorized residue limit.

Mathilde Siguré is not the only farmer in this case. At the start of the year, the Biocer cooperative, of which Mme Siguré, had three batches of buckwheat collected in the fall (between October 19 and December 16, 2020) analyzed from twenty-three organic producers located in Beauce, Normandy or Picardy. The results, to which The world had access, reveal that two of the three batches contain residues of prosulfocarb (as well as pendimethalin, another herbicide) and that for more than half of the producers (fourteen of them), the levels found exceed the maximum limit of residues and in significant proportions, on average twenty-five times more. These results were confirmed by additional analyzes carried out by Biocer’s certification body.

Read also Everything you need to know about pesticides

Alerted since 2017 by farmers, the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (FNAB) has also sought to quantify the phenomenon. In November 2020, thirteen samples were taken from broccoli, spinach, turnips, arugula and apples at various sites in the territory and analyzed by an independent laboratory. Result, 38% of the samples tested positive. None could be marketed.

“We can see that the contaminations identified are not concentrated in a territory, but can occur in a variety of agricultural contexts, attesting to the idea of ​​a generalized risk, linked to a product widely used in conventional cereals”, indicates the FNAB in a note sent in May to the Ministry of Agriculture. It is now asking for the suspension of the marketing authorization (MA) granted to prosulfocarb.

“Long-term adverse effects”

The union had previously called for the creation of a compensation fund for infected farmers. Established by the public authorities and financed by the manufacturer (the main one is the agrochemical giant Syngenta), it uses the model of the “Lubrizol” fund set up to compensate farmers and breeders in the metropolis of Rouen affected in September 2019 by the fallout from the fire at the Seveso site. The Biocer cooperative estimated the shortfall at 100,000 euros.

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