Wineries in France are expected to get more aid to convert their vineyards to organic, as part of a government scheme to promote organic agriculture.

French agriculture minister Michel Barnier has offered the nation's organic agriculture body, Agence Bio, an extra EUR15m (US$20m) over the next three years.

The funding is an extension of a government strategy, launched a year ago, to treble organic surface area in French agriculture by 2012.

Promoting organic agriculture, particularly in the wine industry, is one of the main ways French ministers hope to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% over the next decade. France is the world's third largest pesticide user.

Organic vineyards made up 2.6% of France's total in 2007, following a 16% rise in organic wineries during the year, according to Agence Bio.

Regions with the highest conversion rates in 2007 were Burgundy, Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon.

Currently, organic wine regulations only refer to grape growing, not to winemaking practices.