Arysta Lifescience, manufacturer of Midas, the controversial methyl iodide fumigant used in California’s strawberry production, recently announced that it is suspending further sales of the product in the U.S.
Methyl iodine was used to replace the ozone-damaging methyl bromide, and instead of a welcome solution, became its own source of controversy, inciting protests from farming communities and consumer advocacy groups across California—the nation’s largest strawberry producing state. Several farming counties even banned the chemical; and the recent appointment by Governor Brown of a former organic farmer to the head of the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation may have prompted Arysta Lifescience’s decision to pull the product, reports the website, Grist. Brian Leahy, the newly appointed head of the Department of Pesticide Regulation made it one of his first orders of business to look into alternatives to the toxic methyl iodine. And despite the widespread—and seemingly lucrative—use of methyl iodine across California, Arysta Lifescience reportedly pulled the product because it wasn’t proving to be “economically viable” for the company.
Controversy over the use of methyl iodine in California arose from its listing on the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 as a carcinogen. Other risks include neurotoxicity, thyroid malfunction and fertility issues. Even more confounding is that all strawberries—even certified organic—are prone to treatment with methyl iodine (or its predecessor, methyl bromide, which is still used because of a loophole). Without a single organic strawberry nursery in the state of California, many farmers—even those certified organic—purchase strawberry plants from nurseries where the chemicals are routinely applied to the plants’ soil. And, it’s not illegal either; the organic certification program allows the practice.
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