In yet one more minor win for food freedom, one of the most talked about pesticides of recent times, methyl iodide, was taken off the market in California. This particular pesticide is used as a fumigant in California strawberry fields, where the vast majority of the nation’s strawberries are grown and harvested.
Arysta LifeScience, the makers of the dangerous and toxic fumigant, stated this week that they would be suspending sales of the product in all US markets. While staying extremely vague as to why, Amy Yoder, the head of Arysta LifeScience’s North American division, simply said that the decision was based on its “economic viability in the US marketplace.”
Hmmm. Or, it might have something to do with the fact that California Governor Jerry Brown just appointed an organic farmer as the head of the Department of Pesticide Regulation and he has already spent half a million dollars exploring less toxic alternatives for California crops. Not to mention that several Central Coast counties have already banned the chemical, which is used to sterilize the soil before strawberries and other high-dollar row crops are planted.
In California, where methyl iodide was being slowly phased into use as a replacement for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide, farming communities have spent the last year protesting.
It is still too early to tell just how big of a win this might turn out to be as many California farmers still use the more toxic methyl bromide. How can they do this? By using a “critical use exemption,” meaning they can
prove say that “the specific use is critical due to the lack of availability [of alternatives] … would result in a significant market disruption and there are no technically and economically feasible alternatives or substitutes available.”
So, for now, it’s unclear if the methyl bromide can be completely phased out if or market pressure can force an alternative, but at least the methyl iodide is gone!
It should be noted that methyl iodide is listed as a carcinogen on the state’s own Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, but, according to PAN, it is also a source of thyroid toxicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity.
Adding to the strikes against Arysta, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) also announced yesterday a new round of evidence that a pesticide called Chloropicrin, which is used in conjunction with methyl iodide, had been found in the air in every site they tested near the farming operations conducted by Driscoll’s, the nation’s largest strawberry distributor- Civil Eats
Photo: Sarah Cady
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