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Strawberry Lovers Rejoice: Methyl Iodide Off the Market for Now

We hear a lot about recalls these days. But last night it wasn’t ground turkey, cantaloupes, or peanut butter that was taken off the market. It was one of the most hotly contested pesticides in recent memory: methyl iodide. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Arysta Lifescience, the makers of the fumigant, announced on Tuesday evening that they’d be suspending sales of the product (also known as Midas) in all U.S. markets. Read more

California Ignores Its Own Scientists on Dangerous Pesticide

Applying* a cancer-causing poison on California’s farm fields sounds like some dastardly plot hatched by a Batman super-villain. Unfortunately, reality is often scarier than fiction. In December 2010, the State of California approved the known carcinogen methyl iodide for use on the state’s farm fields. Yes, you read that right—a chemical that actually causes cancer was approved to be applied* on the fields that grow the Golden State’s most prized crops.

Earthjustice promptly filed a lawsuit in January challenging the state’s approval of the toxic pesticide. As a result of the lawsuit, Earthjustice recently obtained internal documents detailing dire warnings about methyl iodide from scientists at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Unfortunately, those dire warnings fell on deaf ears and then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved methyl iodide for use. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: Strawberries in the Spotlight of California’s Ag Industry

Strawberries are tasty, sweet treats that announce spring and warmer weather. We use them in baking, cocktails, and eat them straight out of hand. As delicious as strawberries are, they are also a huge industry in California–the state is the nation’s leading producer and over 37,000 acres are set aside for strawberry production this year. They are the sixth most valuable fruit crop in California, with an approximate value of $2.1 billion.

Because they are such an enormous part of California’s agricultural economy, strawberries are also a microcosm of many issues facing the industry, especially the proposed use of highly toxic chemicals like methyl iodide and the labor, health, and safety issues that accompany it. Read more

Head of CA Department of Pesticide Regulation Leaves Post to Work for Chemical Giant

California’s top pesticide regulator is leaving her job to work for Clorox. Mary-Ann Warmerdam, the director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), announced her resignation on Tuesday. Warmerdam’s departure was voluntary, but environmental and public health advocates have been pushing for her removal for months. They say she let the chemical industry’s influence trump science and the public’s health when her agency approved the use of methyl iodide—which causes cancer, nerve damage and miscarriage—for use in strawberry cultivation. (See more Civil Eats coverage of the issue here, here and here.) Read more

All Eyes On California Strawberries: 40,000 People Join Scientists To Oppose Methyl Iodide

California’s little-known Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) entered the spotlight this month as scientists, farm workers, and activists rallied against the department’s proposal to approve methyl iodide for use in the state’s $2.1 billion strawberry industry. (Civil Eats first reported on methyl iodide here.) On Thursday, DPR officials along with scientists testified at a State Senate hearing on the controversial fumigant, which chemists classify as a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Dozens of activists attended the hearing and delivered to Governor Schwarzenegger some 40,000 letters of opposition to the DPR proposal.

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One Supertoxic Chemical Down, Thousands To Go

Last week, and capping at least a decades-long battle by consumer advocates, the EPA announced a long-awaited ban on the pesticide endosulfan — one of the last legal organochlorine pesticides, a notorious group of which DDT is a member. Horrifically toxic (possibly more toxic to humans than DDT) and banned in the European Union since 2007, endosulfan remains in common — though technically restricted — use, especially on Florida tomatoes and California and Nevada cotton, according to the Pesticide Action Network, while an article in the Environmental Health News presents a much longer list of uses, including melons, cucumbers, squashes, potatoes, apples, blueberries, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, pears, peppers and stone fruit and cotton. Read more

Strawberry Show Down: No Methyl Iodide with My Shortcake, Please

Commercially grown strawberries and tomatoes in California could start getting an unhealthy dose of the highly toxic fumigant methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, and thyroid disruptor. Among scientists’ greatest concerns is the pesticide’s ability to cause spontaneous abortion late in pregnancy. So you might be surprised to hear that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently issued a proposed decision to approve methyl iodide for use just months after a state-commissioned study warned that any agricultural use “would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on the public health” adding that, “adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible.” Read more