California strawberries can now be sprayed with toxic methyl iodine

Over two dozen California legislators and more than 50 scientists–including five Nobel laureates–objected to California’s use of methyl iodide on California strawberry crops, but the measure was still approved on December 1st.

In 2007, the Bush administration approved methyl iodine nationally with 47 states registering the chemical for use, and now California strawberry farmers will legally be allowed to use this known carcinogen on their crops.

Methyl iodine prevents bacteria and infestations from insects and weeds from ruining strawberry crops. It is also linked to cancer, late-term miscarriages, thyroid disease and neurological damage in humans, making it an unsafe and unpredictable toxin.

While state officials insist that the chemical will only be applied by specialists and the areas covered with tarps, like having your house tented for termites, strawberries are not the only crops that can use methyl iodine. Other fruits and vegetables and flowers can also be treated.

With some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, California farmers are also struggling. They simply cannot afford to lose a crop to infestation as they provide 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries. So chances are, they’ll opt to treat their soil with methyl iodine, making those ripe, juicy strawberries a lot less healthy than they look.

Come spring you’ll want to steer clear of any berries that aren’t organic. That means if you shop at farmer’s markets, you need to ask questions. You might find some interesting conversations arise about what small organic farmers think of the use of methyl iodine as many are still lobbying against the use of this toxic chemical.

You also may want to start developing a taste for wild mulberries and blackberries, which grow wild all over the state. You can pick them on your own, for free, and not have to wonder about whether or not they might kill you.

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Photo: Jill Ettinger