Natural molasses treatment works just as well as toxic methyl bromide at mitigating weeds and pests, says USDA

Saturday, March 19, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: molasses, weeds, health news

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(NaturalNews) For many decades, farmers have used methyl bromide, a highly-toxic fumigant, as an agricultural treatment to eliminate weeds, pests, and harmful pathogens. But now, scientists from the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found an alternative solution that works just as well as methyl bromide -- molasses, chicken litter, and natural anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD).

Methyl bromide is a highly toxic chemical that upon inhalation can cause nervous system damage, hemorrhaging of the brain, heart, and spleen, kidney damage, paralysis, respiratory failure, and death. Skin exposure can also cause severe skin blisters, as well as nausea, vomiting, and even death. Long-term damage from chronic exposure can cause reproductive problems, birth defects, genetic mutation, cell damage, organ failure, and death (http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxne...).

Methyl bromide is also implicated in depleting the earth's stratospheric ozone layer. And the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that a 100 percent phase out of methyl bromide was to have occurred by 2005 (http://www.epa.gov/ozone/mbr/), even though the toxin is still used in many applications.

Considering the severity of this extreme toxin, it is shameful that the USDA has continued to allow methyl bromide to be used on the foods eaten by millions of Americans, not to mention in various food processing applications as well. Researchers have been presenting alternatives for years, including a 2007 study very similar to the most recent one in which scientists suggested ASD as an alternative to soil and crop fumigation (http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publication...).

Nevertheless, the USDA is currently working with growers in Florida, where soil and weather conditions are highly prone to pests and weeds, to develop methyl bromide alternatives. Researchers there have already successfully applied water and molasses to soil, covered it with plastic tarps, and prevented the growth of weeds and the emergence of pests just as well as methyl bromide. Time will tell if this method becomes a widely-used alternative for methyl bromide, or if the USDA decides to go with chemical alternatives also being investigated.

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