Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Aux armes vos (eco)citoyens.........

Living in the heart of rural France, you soon realise just how strong the agricultural lobby is. Packaging often carries little 'homages' to the farmers saying how grateful we must be to them. Generous EU and government subsidies mean that the lot of a French farmer is often a happy and quite generous one. Not for our local farmers rusty old tractors. They often have the most up to date models, huge combine harvesters and often a new top of the range 4x4.

In our area there is a farming lobby group called CF47 who have large poster boards dotted around the country. From time to time, posters go up with seemingly random quotes on them usually to try and reinforce in some subliminal way just how much we need the farmers. The last one was 'N'ayez pas peur' (don't be afraid). Of what or whom, they didn't let on.

The current one though has caused something of a stir. It says 'Nous cultivons votre sante' , a little play on words because 'cultiver' means to improve as well as to grow. So this translates as 'we are improving your health'.

I've mentioned in previous posts how unhealthy French produce really is. After the US France is the biggest user of pesticides in agriculture and recent EU surveys of pesticide and herbicide residues on both fresh and processed produce puts France firmly at the top of the list. The average French field is sprayed approximately 12 times a year with herbicides and pesticides. More than once I've bought food in the market on which you can actually feel the residue and if you lick it, it tastes bitter. Yet still people flock to France for it's wonderful fresh produce!

Our particular departement is also the biggest grower of GM crops and conservative estimates suggest that over 80% of crops in ours and neighbouring departments are contaminated due to cross pollination.

The organic market is very small in France. Less than 8% of produce in France is organic but it is growing and there is a rise in the activity of 'ecocitoyens' or eco-warriors as we'd probably call them.

Which brings me back to the posters. Mysteriously, overnight, big fluorescent yellow stickers have appeared on them saying 'Quoi? Avec OGM et pesticides?' (What, with GM and pesticides?) Hooray, is someone finally taking notice? No-one has so far claimed responsibility and the local press are all a-buzz with theories.

Whoever it is, at least it is bringing attention, if only on a local level, on the whole chemical issue. While President Bling Bling has banned some chemicals, there are still far too many in use. My neighbour can't grow anything within 5 feet of her fence as the ground it too contaminated from the chemicals used on the adjacent fields and when he's spraying on a windy day, I feel like we need gas masks to venture out.

So much for fresh country air!


KittyB said...

Hi, nice to see you on my blog.
My SIL lives in France and has said the the 'bio' market is tiny as there is much more emphasis on fresh and local - she didn't mention the pesticides though. I will be interested to talk to her about this (she's in Yorkshire at the mo) as she's a bit brown-rice-and-lentils, if you know what I mean. She normally gives me gyp for buying organic as she claims she can't afford it. Ah well. Tant pis.

Milla said...

I might take up that idea, put posters round the house reminding everyone who lives within how jolly lucky they are to know me. My brother lives in France (prior to that was Italy, Spain) says we don't know how lucky we are living here. But then he doesn't live here. Born to grumble, eh. Came here from blogthatmama.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Kitty, welcome to my blog. Since living here I've noticed that less and less stuff is local now. It all used to be from our departement or the neighbouring ones. Now lots of it comes from Spain and Morocco. Local definitely means pesticides,even if you buy from the smallholders. Bio is very expensive as there so little of it but then I find the markets expensive too. VLiF

Working mum said...

Thanks for popping in to mine.

Hurrah for the vandal with the conscience! Hope it sparks further debate.

Sandi McBride said...

Thats why I love that we grow most of our own produce. We use no pesticides...soapy water washed away the aphids, I squash squash bugs with gloved fingers and the only thing we have to use strong stuff on are the fire ants...can't get around it! I've canned and frozen some mighty fine veggies so far! I'd send you some if you weren't so darned far away!!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi VLiF, My husband could talk for England on the subject of how farmers are badly treated here (in the UK) but I think that a lot of the farmers ARE taking notice of the organic/local lobby. However until the strangehold of the supermarkets is reduced...they still do not have much power. I suppose at least the French are interested in where their food comes from. I don't think it will be too long before the whole pesticides things gets addressed. Or am I wrong?

blogthatmama said...

I've just been working on an organic project and was shocked to read that some cereals have 450 chemicals sprayed on them because they are grown on vast acres of land and need a lot of control - I've returned to organic after reading that! blogthatmamax

(Very) Lost in France said...

I'm very behind in my replies so I apologise. Too many visitors! (No I love them really)

Milla, thanks for dropping in. It's a funny place, France. I think it's great for retired people but if you need to earn a living it's a completely different thing. Good idea about the posters. Shall try the same. VLiF

Hi Working Mum - well, it's been reported in the papers so that's good. The agricultural lobby is far too strong here and their use of pesticides is dreadful. Often we are reduced coughing, runny nosed messes when M. Le Fermier is spraying his fields. Two of our neighbours died in the past year of stomach cancer too. Bit worrying. I'm right behind the ecocitoyens. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

Hi Sandi. I don't use anything in the garden either and neither does my neighbour Chantal. Thank goodness because the farmer uses enough for both of us. VLiF

Hadriana - I don't know. I'm not sure the French are that interested although the organic movement is growing. One of the Presidential Candidates was Jose Bove who was running on an environmental/organic ticket. He had been found guilty of destroying GM crops and his prison sentence was put off until after the elections. VLiF

(Very) Lost in France said...

BTM, I think that's the problem in France too. Every year thousands of trees are felled to make ever larger fields needing ever larger quantities of pesticides. The other problem, as we found out to our cost this spring, it that they are destroying the natural barriers against floodwater. VLiF