A small town surrounded by farms has become the first in France to ban the use of pesticides within 50m of homes as fears grow that they may be to blame for a rise in cancers and other illnesses.
The ban was introduced in Saint-Jean, near the southern city of Toulouse, after a long campaign by doctor and deputy mayor, Gerard Bapt.
He argues that the health risk posed by pesticides is clear from the higher incidence of cancers in some agricultural areas, including Bordeaux, where winegrowers routinely spray their vines with the powerful chemicals.
"Research shows that people living near areas where pesticides are used are more affected by some diseases: endocrinal hormone disruption, diabetes and obesity, hormone-dependent cancers, cancer of the blood, male and female fertility problems and birth defects," Bapt said.
"Recently pesticides were sprayed next to homes where vulnerable people such as pregnant women or young children might have been exposed. The pesticides used are found in water, with traces of pesticides in nine out of 10 rivers and streams in France."
Some local farmers who say their crops will suffer are threatening legal action to challenge the ban. Undeterred, the local authorities have also outlawed the use of weedkillers in ditches that collect rainwater.
Bapt wants to go still further: "We must change farming practices and use organic methods and crop rotation."
Alarm is spreading over the use of pesticides in Bordeaux vineyards. A higher than normal incidence of cancers has been found among children in Villeneuve-de-Blaye who attend a school beside a vineyard.
Residents have formed associations to lobby winegrowers to reduce the use of pesticides in Bordeaux, while organic wines are gaining popularity, with sales up by more than 15 per cent.
The French National Health and Research Institute said in a 2013 report that "there appears to be a link between exposure at work to pesticides and certain pathologies in adults". It also highlighted the risks of exposure to unborn babies and young children.
The Bordeaux Winegrowers' Committee has agreed to encourage members to reduce the use of pesticides.
In Europe, France is the largest user of pesticides after Spain.
But a French farmer suffering from a blood disease he claimed was caused by pesticides lost a 14-year legal battle for compensation last month, after the court ruled that it could not definitely establish the cause of his illness.