The authorization of a herbicide in rice fields worries in the Camargue

The authorization of a herbicide in rice fields worries in the Camargue

L’herbicide Avanza s’utilise quand les rizières sont inondées. – Ray Wilson

L'autorisation, donnée par le ministère de l'Agriculture pour la quatrième année consécutive, de l'Avanza, un produit phytosanitaire utilisée en riziculture interroge quant à sa toxicité.  

"This Friday noon, we are going to prepare a large risotto under the windows of the town hall, just so that the mayor remembers that she has rice farmers in his commune…" Bertrand Mazel, president of the French Rice Farmers' Union, but also of the European Union, has it rather bad. On March 30, Christelle Aillet, mayor of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, published a press release to express her "incomprehension and (her) dismay", faced with the decision of the Ministry of Agriculture to authorize the use of Avanza in rice fields, a phytosanitary product classified as toxic to aquatic organisms. A product awaiting marketing authorization at European level.

The authorization of a herbicide in rice fields worries in the Camargue

Bertrand Mazel chairs the winegrowers' union. Claude Almodovar

The elected representative pointed out the fact that the Camargue hydraulic network only "allows the evacuation of agricultural wastewater to the ponds of the Vaccarès system, either towards the Rhône and the Petit Rhône." The mayor spoke of a risk for the Saintois natural environments but also of endangering the population through the distribution of drinking water whose catchment is located in the Petit Rhône. Very upset on March 30, Christelle Aillet declared herself ready to take legal action for summary proceedings against this decision. She no longer answers the phone, too busy "preparing for the municipal council" (which takes place this Friday, hence the risotto).

The rice farmers' union asks for time

The Avanza authorization was issued for four months, from March 15 to July 15, for the fourth consecutive year. This herbicide is made up of a new molecule which has the particularity of degrading after thirty days in the aqueous medium. "No cases of toxicity linked to Avanza has not been proven, neither on humans, nor on aquatic fauna, bulls, horses, flora… Precautions should be taken, yes of course, as when dealing with Bordeaux mixture which contains copper or any household product which can end up in water. ;, continues Bertrand Mazel who denounces "the technical impasse" in which the profession finds itself. "France cultivates 12 000 ha of rice, or a production of 70  tonnes per year, mainly in Bouches-du-Rhône and Gard . This is 10% of French consumption. Ten years ago, it was twice as much."

The authorization of a herbicide in rice fields worries in the Camargue

12,000 hectares are cultivated in rice cultivation in France, two thirds in Bouches-du-Rhône, a third in Gard, without forgetting two producers in Aude.

Bertrand Mazel assures that Avanza is authorized throughout Europe and its union, like the FNSEA, is asking for time. "Our French rice center is working on alternatives, such as a weeding robot, still at the prototype stage. Or even on dry sowing to save water, and on plants which adapt better. And we have relaunched a more virtuous cycle of crop rotations. We are moving forward, but it takes time."

"We don't know this new molecule"

A speech that makes a retired rice farmer, still a member of the union, climb the curtain. Gardois Bernard Poujol is at the origin of the rise in temperature under this pot of rice. It was he who raised awareness with the mayor of Les Saintes and then responded to the journalist Hugo Clément for his column "In all subjectivity" from April 3 broadcast on France Inter. A beautiful echo chamber for Bernard Poujol who campaigns for the end of agro-industry and has, for twelve years, experimented in Saint-Gilles with "the duck of the rice fields&quot ;. To avoid chemical treatment, ducks come to peck at the weeds in the rice fields before, when the time comes, being transformed into rillettes or duck breasts.

The authorization of a herbicide in rice fields worries in the Camargue

France is the fifth largest rice producer in Europe. Midi Libre – SYLVIE CAMBON

"What made me go on crusade was this email from March 18 evoking &quot ;a union victory". The molecule is destroyed in water after a certain time? But the rice fields are surrounded by mounds of earth, and the earth is not waterproof. We can't find it? But it's a new molecule, so the laboratories don't know how to recognize it! It is not yet in the scientific nomenclatures. Look at the chlordecone used in banana plantations in the West Indies, we still find traces of it today, thirty years after having stopped using it’ nbsp;! The Camargue is already in danger due to rising salt, but if the actors in the territory themselves deal the blow to it…hellip; ", plague the Gardois who, it's certain, will not invite themselves to the risotto des Saintes this lunchtime.

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