Saturday, May 15, 2010

No methyl iodide on our food

California is on the verge of approving a potent carcinogenic gas for use on strawberry fields and other food crops. The chemical -- methyl iodide -- is so toxic that scientists in labs use only small amounts with special protective equipment, yet agricultural applications mean it could be released directly into the air and water.

On April 30, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation proposed that the state approve use of methyl iodide for agricultural purposes, despite ongoing outcry from prominent scientists and the general public. Arysta LifeScience, a manufacturer of the chemical and the world's largest privately-held pesticide company, has invested in a substantial lobbying campaign to gain approval in one of the world's most productive agricultural regions.

Methyl iodide has been subject to ongoing controversy in its approval process. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide for agricultural use in 2007, amid criticism from more than 50 prominent scientists that the process was hidden from public view and the research focus was too limited. California followed with its own review. Even though a report from an independent panel of scientists in the California study declared that "methyl iodide is a highly toxic chemical and we expect that any anticipated scenario for the agricultural or structural fumigation use of this agent would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on public health," the Department of Pesticide Regulation nonetheless proposed that the chemical be approved.

There is little to debate about methyl iodide's toxicity. It is a known neurotoxin, disrupts thyroid function, damages developing fetuses, and has caused lung tumors in laboratory animals. California already classifies it as a human carcinogen. Fumigating fields with the gas -- even with the strictest regulations -- would no doubt still result in unacceptable exposures to farmworkers and and surrounding populations.

We have one last chance to stop methyl iodide from being used on our food. The DPR is accepting public comments on it's proposal through June 14. Submit your comment today and send the incontrovertible message that we don't want the public or our food exposed to this poison.

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