California Debates Pesticides

Last year, California agricultural officials and environmental regulators approved a controversial pesticide, methyl iodine, in an effort to comply with international environmental regulations. Methyl iodine was approved as a replacement to methyl bromide, an ozone depleting chemical which is being phased out across the country.

Methyl bromide is a fairly common pesticide, used across California, primarily in strawberry farms, to kill both pests and diseases in the surface of the soil. Despite is harm to the ozone and despite efforts to phase this chemical out, it is still being widely used in California. State regulators claim that few farmers have adopted methyl iodine, which has thus far been used only four times, despite the rapidly approaching peak fumigation months.

One of the reasons for the reluctance to use methyl iodine is its potential health and environmental impact. According to scientific reports, exposure to methyl iodine can cause cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages.

When the outgoing gubernatorial administration approved the use of methyl iodine, they assembled a scientific team to study potential harms to the population and the environment. However, recent documents which have been leaked to the media indicate that scientific warnings were ignored, and California regulators consulted pesticide manufacturers to determine appropriate levels of methyl iodine use and exposure.

Rather than risk opposition from environmental and health activists over the use of methyl iodine, many farmers have chosen to avoid rocking the boat, using the problematic, but less controversial, methyl bromide, until regulators can decide on a safe alternative.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer