The toxins in methyl iodide are so potent that the chemical is used to grow cancer cells in laboratory settings. It can cause severe brain damage, miscarriages, and thyroid diseases.
Thanks to a decision last week by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), this substance could soon be used on the strawberries in your supermarket. The agency approved methyl iodide as a pesticide for the state’s strawberry fields, and farmers could start spraying it as early as this spring.
The scientific community has spoken loudly against the toxin. Six Nobel laureate recommended banning the use of methyl iodide completely back in 2007, and earlier this year all eight independent researchers on DPR’s scientific advisory panel expressed serious concerns about using the chemical as a pesticide.
But scientific warnings were no match for an intense lobbying effort by a Japanese chemical firm that produces methyl iodide, Arysta LifeScience, and a full-court press by the state’s powerful $2 billion per year strawberry-growing industry. In response to this pressure, the DPR approved use of the chemical at 100 times the level scientists consider safe.
Even if you don’t live in California, this affects you — the Golden State grows roughly 90 percent of all strawberries sold in the United States.
It’s not too late to take action. California’s Governor-Elect, Jerry Brown, who has a solid environmental track record, will take office on January 3rd. With enough attention on the issue, there’s a good chance he’ll put consumers’ safety before corporate interests.
Local consumer, environmental, and farmworker groups are banding together to speak out, holding six protests throughout the state last week. California’s leading newspapers are condemning the decision. With a huge outcry, Change.org members can help push this fight over the top.
Join the grassroots group Pesticide Action Network in calling on Governor-Elect Brown to commit to banning methyl iodide as soon as he takes office. Take action now!