Champagne-Ardenne, a major user of pesticides? Point by sector

Champagne-Ardenne, a major user of pesticides? Point by sector
Champagne-Ardenne, a major user of pesticides? Point by sector

The government announces its new Ecophyto plan this Monday. Objective: reduce the use of phytosanitary products by 50% by 2030 in France. Farmers will be supported in this transition. Are pesticides widely used in Champagne-Ardenne? Point by sector.

What do we risk by living in the Champardennais countryside? The vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see in the Reims mountains and the wheat fields make the horizon turn golden. Behind this bucolic picture, a much less pleasant reality: the massive presence of pesticides, justified by farmers and denounced by environmental associations. While the government reaffirms its desire to reduce their use, in its new Ecophyto plan presented this Monday, where are we in our region?

Pesticides in vineyards and cereal areas

In an interactive map produced by the Solagro association, an association which notably assesses the environmental impact of agriculture, Champagne-Ardenne is adorned with red. On this map, produced in part with data from Agreste (agricultural statistics agency) in 2023 to evaluate the use of pesticides, this color designates very frequent treatment of agricultural areas with phytosanitary products.

Among the most affected areas: the vineyards of Epernay and the Montagne de Reims, but also the cereal areas of Suippes and around Sommesous, between the Marne and the Aube, the vines of Sézanais and, to a lesser extent , the south of Rethel.

The use of pesticides is therefore frequent in our countryside. According to the DRAAF (Regional Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Forestry), Champagne-Ardenne even represents two thirds of the use of phytosanitary products in the Grand Est, over the period 2014-2019.

Half of these products are herbicides, notably glyphosate in vineyards. Three quarters of vineyard areas treated with a herbicide are also treated with glyphosate. These products are used to combat weeds, which compete with crops, in order to increase yields.

Pesticides and their residues are found almost everywhere: in our food, but also in our air.

In its 2022 report, assessing the pesticide situation in the Grand Est, the ATMO (association monitoring air quality) recalls that pesticides can contaminate ambient air, by drift during treatment, by volatilization of substances or because of the wind which sweeps away particles on the ground on which pesticides may be attached. The report points out in particular the presence of five banned substances on certain sites.

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Three quarters of vineyard areas treated with a herbicide are treated with glyphosate.

© DENIS CHARLET / AFP

Water is also affected. In 2023, metabolites (or residues) of chloridazone were found in the water of Grand Reims, although this pesticide has been banned in France since 2020.

Living near vineyards or treated fields is therefore not trivial.The Ministry of Health reminds that repeated exposure to these pesticides can have short and long term health consequences.

Epidemiological studies have highlighted links between exposure to pesticides and the risk of the appearance of cancerous, neurological pathologies or even reproductive disorders, particularly in a professional environment.

Ministry of Labor, Health and Solidarity

Given the nature of our crops, getting rid of pesticides in Champagne-Ardenne is not easy. In a report submitted to the government in 2017, experts concede that the emergence of new pests (aphids, leafhoppers, grain miners, etc.) could “sometimes make treatment necessary“, particularly in certain cereal crops, especially wheat. However, the Grand Est is the leading cereal-producing region in France: ten million tonnes of cereals are produced there per year, half of which is wheat, according to the Intercéales association.

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The Grand Est is the leading grain-producing region in France, mainly wheat crops, which struggle to do without phytosanitary products.

© LOU BENOIST / AFP

However, efforts have been noted. According to the DRAAF Grand Est, in 2019 we observed a drop in pesticide purchases of 28% in Champagne-Ardenne compared to 2018. Figures which seem encouraging but which must be put into perspective, because they follow an increase in purchases of 13 % in the Grand Est, observed the previous year.

The new Ecophyto plan, presented by the government today, provides for a 50% reduction in the use of phytosanitary products by 2030. A date postponed several times. The government is pleased to have already drastically reduced the use of pesticides. The NGO Générations Futures denounces a simple and “misleading” change of measuring instrument.

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