Strawberries

Methyl iodine, the neurotoxin chemical used to fumigate strawberry and tomato fields before planting, is at the heart of a growing debate in California just a year after former Governor Schwarzenegger approved its use.

Supplying most of the nation’s strawberries, California farmers have come to rely heavily on toxic pesticides and fumigants that kill soil borne bacteria that could jeopardize the health of their crops. Methyl iodine replaced methyl bromide, which was phased out because of its detrimental environmental impact, but the replacement comes with its own risks, mainly human health concerns such as an increased risk of certain types of cancer, according to more than 50 scientists including five Nobel laureates who petitioned the EPA and Bush II administration to ban its use in agricultural applications.

As per the Pesticide Action Network website, California Governor Jerry Brown is considering taking new action on regulating or possibly even banning the chemical altogether this year just as he’s also preparing to appoint a new chief pesticide regulator. And PAN further condemns the use of the methyl iodine for risks, which the organization says were not fully explored under Schwarzenegger’s administration, “Scientists who were tasked with reviewing the chemical have stated that the “science was subverted” in the approval process.”

The list of consumer advocacy groups and environmental organizations opposed to the widespread use of methyl iodine continues to grow and has received support from 35 California legislators who are petitioning Governor Brown to reconsider the State’s position on the fumigant. Public comments are being heard by the EPA on the issue, with more than 200,000 citizens already showing support for the ban.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML