Originally published September 16 2011
Exposed: California officials manipulated safety data on methyl iodide, ignored scientist warnings against approving deadly strawberry chemical
by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Many of those plump, juicy strawberries found on produce section shelves are hiding a deadly little secret. In 2010, regulators in California, where over 90 percent of conventional strawberries are grown, quietly approved the use of toxic methyl iodide as a fruit pesticide after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved it nationally. But new evidence has now surfaced that government officials twisted study data to make the chemical falsely appear safe in order to get it approved -- and individuals everywhere are now increasingly demanding that methyl iodide be banned.
A recent report from Mother Jones explains that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) cherry-picked data from varying studies on methyl iodide in order to paint the chemical in an artificially positive light. The agency then used this deceptive data to justify allowing smaller buffer zones between farms that use methyl iodide and farms that do not use methyl iodide. DPR also used the flawed data to increase the permitted spray concentration maximum for the chemical.
Early on, DPR's own scientists decried the agency's intended actions, having noted in an internal memo that numbers cited in the agency's report endorsing methyl iodide had been extracted from "different risk assessment methodologies that are not interchangeable." They added that such data was "not scientifically credible," and that any data of that type is only accurate when compiled from the same source.
But DPR refused to listen to these scientists, and instead approved methyl iodide in spite of the evidence against it. Not long after, environmental protection groups, farmers, and ordinary citizens together sparked a burgeoning battle to force the state to ban methyl iodide, including a recent rally that took place on the steps of the California State Capital.
Methyl iodide causes miscarriages, thyroid dysfunction, cancerArysta LifeScience, the chemical company that produces methyl iodide, claims that it is largely safe, and that the neurotoxic damage it can cause is "transient." But according to data cited by leading scientists, this is simply not the case, and permanent brain damage can ensue from exposure to methyl iodide.
Back in 2007 before methyl iodide's approval, a group of more than 35 esteemed scientists wrote a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to deny approval for the chemical on the grounds that it is "highly toxic," and has a "significant adverse impact on public health."
After methyl iodide was approved anyway, the same group sent another letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson once again urging the agency to withdraw approval for the chemical (http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Jac...).
"Due to the potent toxicity of methyl iodide, its transport and ultimate fate in the environment, adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible," wrote scientists from California's Scientific Review Committee (SRC) concerning methyl iodide. "We have concluded there is little doubt that the compound possesses significant toxicity."
SRC's thorough report also notes that, despite claims made by Arysta about methyl iodide's supposedly transient neurotoxicity, "no robust studies of neurotoxicity (were) actually conducted." If they had been, it would have been revealed, of course, that methyl iodide is a highly neurotoxic substance that is known and recognized by the state of California to cause cancer (http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/prop65_list/f...).
Methyl iodide, of course, is the same chemical that scientists have used to deliberately create cancer cells in laboratories for research purposes that is how powerfully dangerous it is!
The Pesticide Action Network - North America (PANNA) also notes that methyl iodide is responsible for causing late-term miscarriages as well, especially at the 100 pounds (lbs) per acre spread rate to which it has been approved for California strawberries (http://www.panna.org/cancer-free-strawberrie...).
Methyl iodide has no legitimate place in American agricultureOn December 30, 2010, Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. filed a lawsuit against DPR for approving of methyl iodide, which ignored all available evidence against the chemical, as well as the more than 53,000 comments submitted by Californians against the chemical's use. The use of methyl iodide violates the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Birth Defects Prevention Act, and the Pesticide Contamination Prevention Act, according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of PANNA and numerous other groups representing farmers and consumers, many of whom stand to be affected most by the pumping of soils with toxic methyl iodide gas. Many of the farm fields that spray methyl iodide are located directly near homes and schools, where high-risk individuals like pregnant mothers and young children face routine exposure.
In truth, there really is no need to use methyl iodide on strawberries, peppers, or any of the other varieties of produce for which it has been approved. Several large strawberry growers, including Swanton Berry, Driscoll's, and Martinez Farms, have been able to develop thriving organic strawberry operations that require no pesticides -- surely the rest can make modifications to avoid pumping toxic poisons into the soils of one of America's major produce production regions.
Sources for this story include:
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