Napa sustainability certification body to require phaseout of Roundup

image of vineyards with Napa Green certified sign

At the forefront of this campaign is the elimination of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. It has been the subject of controversy and debates over its potential environmental and health impacts.

Numerous studies have cast doubt on glyphosate’s safety, revealing residues in soil, water, plants, animals, and even humans. The associated risks extend to pollinator declines, biodiversity loss and ecosystem dysfunction. Despite divided views among international regulatory bodies, the urgency centred around vineyard soil, vine health and wine quality takes centre stage in Napa Green’s ‘whole systems’ approach to sustainability and climate resilience.

‘If not now, when? Currently, we have 25 certified growers and roughly 40 growers actively transitioning to certification,’ said Anna Brittain, executive director of Napa Green. ‘Together, these farmers and wine growers represent over 2,800 hectares of vineyards.’

image of Anna Brittain of Napa Green

Napa Green executive director Anna Brittain. Credit: Napa Green

Stringent requirements

Of around 20 sustainable wine-growing certification programmes in the world, Napa Green stands alone in its lofty goal to eliminate synthetic herbicides.

‘Our ambitious 2026 vision and strategic plan has the goal to hit 8,000ha certified or enrolled in Napa Green Vineyard, as well as [making] at least 33% of Napa County vineyard acreage glyphosate or Roundup-free by 2028,’ Brittain continued.

Napa Green’s goal is to phase out all synthetic herbicides.

What is Roundup?

Developed by Monsanto in 1974, Roundup became a breakthrough weed-control mechanism for agriculture and a household name for the residential garden market.

Despite recent findings of glyphosate’s link to cancers and other clinical manifestations in humans as well as soil toxicity, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has claimed that the chemical poses no risks when used according to instructions on the label.

While Bayer, who acquired Monsanto in 2018, welcomed the EPA’s statement, the company started removing glyphosate herbicides from the home gardening market this year to manage the continuing risks of litigation. However, Roundup continues to be widely available for commercial agriculture worldwide.

In the legal arena, a federal appeals court ruled in November that California cannot enforce a cancer warning on Roundup product labels, counter to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 classification of glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.

Sheep in the vineyards

Sheep grazing. Credit: White Rock Vineyards

Glysophate and the soil biome

‘We have heard and read many studies on the use of glyphosate in vineyards but more importantly, we have seen its effects,’ said Kendall Smith, viticulturist at her family’s White Rock Vineyards.

Smith is referring to the damage that glyphosate poses to the beneficial microbial organisms in the soil, such as fungi, lichens, amoeba and protozoa, which are the building blocks of soil health. ‘The removal of plant life within and under the vine rows increases soil compaction, it impacts fertility, biodiversity and water infiltration,’ Smith continued.

Napa Green supporters such as fourth-generation RAEN winegrower and owner of Monarch Tractor, Carlo Mondavi, couldn’t agree more.

‘Glyphosate is the number one herbicide used across the globe. There is so much used, it’s alarming,’ said Mondavi. ‘When you look at what this does to organic matter and soils, it’s troubling.’

Mondavi explains that nutrient deficiencies or imbalances due to reduced organic matter may also impact yeast metabolism, impeding healthy and natural winemaking fermentation.

The real struggle lies in changing the way farmers have been operating for nearly a century. Modern agriculture has promoted synthetic herbicides. Monoculture has led to a decrease in biodiversity. Weeds have become the unsightly enemy.

Changing habits

‘Our great grandparents didn’t farm like this,’ says Mondavi, who comes from generations…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/sustainable/napa-sustainability-certification-body-to-require-phaseout-of-roundup-519623/

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