(NaturalNews) Decadent and delicious, much-loved strawberries have a dark side. The recently approved strawberry pesticide methyl iodide has been called "one of the most toxic chemicals on earth" by Dr. John Froines, UCLA Professor of Environmental Health and Chair of California's independent scientific committee established to review the chemical. We have a window of opportunity right now to tell the EPA that methyl iodide has no place in the fields. Sign the petition to EPA today (http://action.panna.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6270) demanding that they ban methyl iodide!
Methyl iodide causes cancer, late-term miscarriages and contaminates groundwater. In fact, it's so reliable at causing cancer that scientists use it in the lab to create cancer cells. Scientists take extreme precautions when handling it, using a ventilation hood, gloves, and special equipment to ensure that it does not escape to the air.
Despite clear evidence of its extreme toxicity, methyl iodide has been legalized as a pesticide to be used at rates of over 100 pounds per acre in agricultural fields across the country. When applied, methyl iodide becomes a gas that can easily drift from fields onto nearby workers, homes and schools putting farmworkers and rural communities at high risk of exposure.
Corporate pressure trumps science
Pesticide giant Arysta LifeScience is the largest agrochemical company in the world and manufacturer of methyl iodide. Their corporate pressure trumped science at the national level in 2007 when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the pesticide in the last days of the Bush Administration over the voiced concerns of 54 scientists, most members of the National Academy of Sciences and including six Nobel Laureates in Chemistry.
In a letter to the EPA, these scientists expressed astonishment that the EPA would "legalize broadcast releases of one of the more toxic chemicals used in manufacturing into the environment" and urged the EPA to not approve methyl iodide because of the high risks it poses to human health and the environment.
A handful of states -- including California, the most lucrative market for methyl iodide since 88 percent of the nation's strawberries are grown there -- undertake additional scientific review of pesticides before deciding whether or not to use them locally. Although California convened an independent scientific review of the chemical concluding that there was no way to use it safely as a pesticide, methyl iodide was approved in December 2010, in the dying breaths of the Schwarzenegger Administration.
The exposure levels that California approved as "safe" for workers are 120 times higher than the levels that government scientists say protect against miscarriages and 56 times higher than the levels government scientists say protect against thyroid cancer.
Dr. Theodore Slotkin, a member of California's independent scientific review committee and professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University, wrote, "It is my personal opinion that this decision will result in serious harm to California citizens, and most especially to children."
Strawberries can be grown safely without toxic pesticides
Strawberries are grown throughout the nation and world without reliance on highly hazardous pesticides. Economically viable non-chemical alternatives to methyl iodide are available and already in use by organic and other sustainable agricultural practitioners. Since 1983, Swanton Berry Farms, on the central coast of California, has been growing strawberries organically. Swanton Berry is now joined by farmers large and small - from Driscoll's to Martinez Farms - in a thriving organic strawberry business. Specific pest control alternatives include the use of resistant cultivars, cultural methods such as crop rotation, the use of cover crops, as well as physical methods such as steaming the soil.
Tell the EPA to ban methyl iodide
An unprecedented 53,000 Californians weighed in opposing the chemical when the state was deciding whether or not to approve methyl iodide. Due to strong public pressure in California, the EPA decided to open a national public comment period on the use of methyl iodide.
About the author: Tracey Brieger is the Co-Director of Californians for Pesticide Reform, a statewide coalition of over 185 public interest groups working to protect public health and the environment from the dangers of pesticide use and support sustainable alternatives.
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