Wine Consumption, An Acceptable Suicide?
Updated: Sep 23
If you have ever taken out a life insurance policy, you will notice that almost none of the policies are payable to your beneficiaries if you have committed suicide. What struck me odd about this waiver of responsibility, is that most, if not all humans, will accept suicide as a perfectly normal exit from life, if the death is caused by consumption of toxic foods we thoroughly enjoy, air born toxins we freely inhale, and life activities that are obviously “death defying.” For example, and I will only take up your time today on this one example, because it is a human activity I enjoy almost every day: wine consumption. (also in all food consumption-but let’s pick on grapes first).
Quite a few of us are oenophiles. According to www.wineinstitute.org , 24,707,701 liters of wine are consumed worldwide annually (2015). Even that seems like a small amount, considering just my consumption on a weekend 😊. The point being, for this article, is that much of the grapes consumed via wine, are saturated with herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides which are used to help the grapes grow without risking invasion by fungi, pests, and those pesky weeds. The big BUT here is whether we are contributing to our own demise by cheerfully imbibing these bottled beverages and sidestepping the conflict and responsibility we have to ourselves and family to stay healthy and alive. Or is knowingly drinking something that is harmful to our health, our life, Acceptable Suicide: acceptable to all of society because “everybody does it?” Admittedly, the process is slow, therefore, not obvious suicide, but nonetheless, a contributory factor in our exit from this life. Apparently, we are consenting to a food manufacturer’s manipulating of a crop that he/she grows to sell to us that we may or may not know is harmful to our health, but which we consume because it tastes delicious or divine. Are we in fact Snow White? Or just risk takers? Or earthlings who see no way out of the life support system we created, but which is self destructive?
Here’s a Canadian blog www.globeandmail.com that addresses the use of fungicides, pesticides on our grape crop: " Where wines are concerned, much of the attention has focused on fungicides because grapes are particularly susceptible to rot from such mouldy invaders as powdery and downy mildew. Fungal diseases are strongly associated with humid environments, which may be one reason France has become something of a whipping post for consumer groups that have been lobbying to effect change. Humid places like Bordeaux and Champagne rely heavily on chemical spraying with things like copper-based anti-mildew preparations.
Such dependence has been called out by various critics over the years. Two years ago, for example, the French consumer organization UFC-Que Choisir tested 92 wines from around France and found pesticide traces in every bottle. The group singled out Bordeaux and Champagne, in particular, noting that wines from drier regions in the south, such as Provence and the Rhône Valley, tended to be less loaded with pesticides. It also said France’s wine industry accounts for just 3.7 per cent of the country’s agricultural land yet uses 20 per cent of the country’s pesticide volume. And France is a heavy user of agricultural pesticides over all, reportedly ranking behind only the United States and Japan globally. It bears noting that pesticide residues are not unique to wine grapes; chemicals are used throughout the agricultural sector wherever fruits, vegetables and grains are grown.
Another study, in 2008, by researchers at Kingston University in London, also found heavy metals in wine from 15 countries in Europe, South America and the Middle East. While the metals may or may not have come from pesticides (it’s impossible to be certain, because the metals may have been resident in the soil or come from elsewhere), the researchers published a list of the worst-offending countries, which included Hungary, Slovakia, France, Austria, Spain, Germany and Portugal. Among countries faring best were Italy and Argentina. (The United States and Canada, among others, were not part of the study.) I’m not aware of a comprehensive study that has ranked pesticide residues across the global wine industry, and the allowable production limits in many countries in any case apply only to harvested grapes, not to finished wine. (There can be a big difference between the two measurements, in part because some residues collect and remain mainly in grape seeds and stems more than in juice, and because fermentation has the beneficial effect of scrubbing away some pesticides.) Bleak though some selective studies might seem, there’s heartening news. Perhaps the best barometer of all is here at home, where the LCBO in
Ontario performs a chemical analysis of every wine sold in the province. The liquor board’s executive vice-president, George Soleas, a PhD scientist says while pesticides were an issue many years ago, the lab now rarely detects residues. And generally those concentrations fall significantly below the LCBO’s guidelines, which are stricter than government limits. Soleas says that while fungicides are the most commonly detected family of pesticides, they vary depending on the climatic conditions within the growing region. In other words, a wet season may require more fungicide spraying than a dry one, and less residue will make it into the final product if the spraying is conducted well before harvest. So, if I were seeking out wines with relatively low residue levels, my inclination would be to focus on regions with dry climates, notably the drier zones of Chile, Argentina and California. But if you’re not too worried about all those pesticides on your apples, strawberries and bell peppers (among the worst offenders in your shopping cart), I wouldn’t panic about the pinot noir. The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol (HarperCollins) won top prize for best general English cookbook at the 2014 Taste Canada Food Writing Awards. E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/wine/which-countries-wines-have-the-least-amount-of-pesticides/article26474846/to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website. But, even taking a peek at Californian wines, research found on www.ecowatch.com shows the disparity when assessing California wines versus other wine growing regions around the world.
Here is what that blog has to say: There are five reasons why Roundup/glyphosate should never be sprayed on any crops, including vineyards:
1. According to farmers like John Kempf of AdvancingEcoAg.com, glyphosate based herbicides are showing up in irrigation water, are likely present in manure/fertilizer from animals fed genetically modified grains and drift from spraying. Glyphosate residues have been detected in many foods, cotton products, breast milk, beers and wines.
2. Wine growers of conventional farms report that their family businesses use to be able to harvest from their vines for 100 years. Today, with chemical farming, vines are lasting 10-12 years. Glyphosate is a chelator, which makes the vital nutrients and minerals of any living thing it touches unavailable. Taking the risk of depleting the vitality of important crops is not a good long term decision for farmers of any kind. Instead, Regenerative agriculture enriches the soil, supports longevity of the farm and does not use toxic chemicals.
3. Glyphosate has been deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Even the small amount of 0.1ppt of glyphosate has been shown to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells. According to the California Department of Health, breast cancer rates in the Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties are 10 to 20 percent higher than the national average. There are many pending lawsuits against Monsanto for the connection between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Roundup.
4. The pig study by Pedersen and Krueger showed a repeated 30 percent increase of birth defects and stillborn with the introduction of glyphosate-sprayed grains. The infertility and sterility in America is exactly correlated to the pig study results, at 30 percent, the highest in recorded U.S. history.
5. French scientist Gilles-Éric Seralini and his team have discovered that the co-formulants of Roundup are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate and are hormone disruptors, which can lead to breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and many other health issues. More articles to follow on this same theme; but with hopes of finding research on how we live without causing our own deaths.
And watch MIT scientist Stephanie Seneff's youtube's videos of her work on spreading word about the evils of glysophate.