In the first two reasons why I drink organic wine, I’ve discussed why I drink organic wine from a wine lover’s perspective (organic farming produces quality, delicious wines and organic farming also protects future vintages of quality, delicious wines), but today I’m going to talk a little bit about the benefits of organic farming from a broader perspective.
Reason #3 – Organic Farming Helps Save the Planet
Choosing wines that are made from organically farmed grapes can help save the planet. Yes, yes, I know — that sounds incredibly cheesy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important goal! It is well established that chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers have a serious negative impact on the land, watersheds, oceans, soils, biodiversity, and the farming communities where they are used. By drinking organic wine, here are some of the adverse effects of industrial agrochemicals that you can help prevent:
Water Pollution – Agrochemicals are responsible for a variety of forms of water pollution, including the pollution of oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. The US Geological Survey showed that almost all US streams contain pesticides and pesticide residues, and that approximately 10% of streams had concentrations of pesticides or pesticide residues higher than what would be considered safe for humans. The US Geological Survey also found evidence of groundwater contamination by pesticides, and although the frequency was lower than that of streams, several groundwater sites tested were sources of drinking water. Furthermore, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals can increase the likelihood of toxic algae blooms, that can wipe out fish or other wildlife in lakes, ponds, and oceans. In addition to affecting the plant and animal ecosystems into which they are introduced, these agrochemicals and the pollution they cause also affect people who drink the polluted waters, and also people who eat the fish and shellfish that live in these polluted waters and that are contaminated with agrochemicals.
Vine and Soil Damage – As I discussed in my last post, synthetic chemicals can damage the soils and vines. Chemicals can damage plants by weakening the root systems of the plant, and can also damage the plant’s immune system. Grapevines are particularly sensitive to some herbicides, and herbicide injury can reduce the vigor, yield, and fruit quality of the grapevine, weaken the vine’s immune system, and shorten the life of the vineyard. Industrial chemicals can also degrade the soil biodiversity and fertility of vineyards, by reducing concentrations of essential plant nutrients, and by wiping out beneficial insects, worms, and microorganisms in the soils.
Reduction in Biodiversity – Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is integral to the sustainability of balanced ecosystems. Pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers have been proven to reduce biodiversity and thus endanger the stability of ecosystems. Several types of pesticides are toxic to beneficial insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, or fish. These pesticides accumulate in the food chain and can affect many more species than only those that were directly exposed to the pesticides. Also, pesticides and herbicides also can reduce the abundance of weeds, grass, and insects that are food sources for many species, and they can damage wildlife habitats by altering vegetation structure. These effects reduce biodiversity, and can produce a substantial decline in the population of many interconnected species. As some species of plants, insects, amphibians, fish, birds, and mammals decline or die out from an ecosystem, the ecosystem becomes less and less stable, until it can no longer support itself.
Adverse Health Effects for Consumers – On a final note, it may also be better for a consumer’s individual health to consume foods that are grown without the use of agrochemicals than foods that are grown with the use of agrochemicals. This discussion wades into murky waters, as there have not been sufficient studies on the long-term, cumulative effects of agrochemicals on people’s health. Although there is an established link between the exposure to pesticides and individual health problems, such as birth defects and reproductive failure, neurological disorders, skin and lung diseases, and cancer, these health problems are associated only with certain levels of exposure to agrochemicals. Further, while tests have revealed that conventional wines do contain pesticide residue, the amount of pesticide residue in a single bottle of wine is extremely small. Are there enough pesticides in conventional wine for one bottle, on its own, to cause health problems? No. Similarly, is there enough agrochemical residue on a single apple to cause health problems? Also no. But consider our total cumulative exposure to pesticides and other agrochemicals over the long term. Will single bottles of wine and single apples add up? Maybe. Especially when combined with the variety of agrochemical residues we consume daily in food, drinks and tap water, or that we are exposed to at work, or in our yards, or from neighboring farms. Furthermore, it is possible that certain agrochemicals might synergistically interact with each other, or with common pharmaceuticals, to cause increased negative effects on our health.
Does this information make you think about which types of wines you should be purchasing? Let us know if you have any questions or comments below!
Want to explore organic wine? Try our monthly organic wine club or give it as a gift to someone you love!