the cost of living next to a vineyard

Submitted by MichaelE on Fri, 2010-03-05 10:49

Spraying vineyardsSpraying vineyardsIt has been known for some time that people are being affected by spray drift from pesticides, there have been several incidences of pesticide poisonings in South Africa.

“It is estimated that worldwide, 25 million people are poisoned by pesticides each year.” This is the lead slogan of The Air That I Breathe Foundation (Tatib), which has been formed by the local residents of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Somerset West & surrounding areas, as a platform from which they can campaign against the harmful effects of exposure to potentially toxic spray drift from the adjacent vineyards & orchards, into bordering dwellings/residential areas.

The Tatib website argues that "it is a well documented fact that exposure to pesticides causes "hay fever" symptoms - upper respiratory tract irritation / infection, sinus problems, asthma to name but a few. Exposure to pesticides may also cause more serious problems like central nervous system damage, respiratory problems and even cancer."

It is unlawful, as per Act 36 of 1947 which regulates agricultural activities, to spray your vineyards in such a way that spray drift (of pesticides) is allowed to be blown into the residential areas. However it seems that many vineyards in the Paarl valley continue to spray pesticides regardless.

Following the overwhelming support for the public forum held by Tatib, in November last year, to discuss the ever-increasing incidence of medical conditions relating to pesticide exposure, the Tatib foundation has formed what they call a "medical cluster," a group of doctors that will form a network with one and another, to exchange information about the incidence of patients showing symptoms of exposure to pesticides from spray drift. It is hoped that through knowledge gained through this exchange, trends can be picked up and steps can be taken to redress the situation.

Some wine estates have also responded to the outcry about pesticide exposure. For instance, after a meeting with Tatib's Jurgen Schirmacher on February 2nd, KWV's Hymil Krige, has proposed the following action plan at their vineyard. They aim to test and evaluate these procedures over the next few months. These include:

1.Notification – providing pamphlets to all neighbouring properties of the vineyard. Notification of the next spray cycle and the setting up of a dedicated helpline for pesticide exposure enquires.

2.Providing a list of biopesticides used on the KWV vineyard, and testing and evaluating alternatives. They also welcome suggestions of alternatives.

3.To research and test alternative technologies over the winter months.

4.To monitor wind conditions by means of weather stations and spraying in the early morning.

5.To create a buffer zone – to adapt their spraying programme in buffer zones with alternative products. To implement a buffer zone scheme into long term vineyard replanting.

6.To have a continuous engagement and input into the Integrated Production of Wine Programme (IPW)

7.Support for other farmers - Create, test and implement model for KWV spraying. To share their created model with industry bodies. Participate in industry forums to increase awareness. To host a media campaign to raise awareness and share learning.

This should go some way to redress the problems inherent when spraying with pesticides in the vineyards in Paarl valley. If other vineyards were willing to take up similar action plans there would almost certainly be a decrease in incidence of health problems associated with exposure to pesticides. We are constitutionally guaranteed of living conditions that are not harmful to our health. Therefore why do we continue to subject ourselves and our families to pesticide soup? Is it not time for the local viticulture industry to green up its act?

Read more about the poisoning of boland residents in this Green Times article

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