Friday, June 4, 2010

Toxics off our strawberries

You may have heard that California, the nation's largest agricultural producer, 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.
CREDO members have been working hard to stop methyl iodide in California by submitting over 26,000 public comments in opposition to the state's approval of the pesticide. But there are steps we can take nationally as well. The ultimate power to regulate pesticides lies with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It originally issued its approval of methyl iodide under George W. Bush's administration but has the ability to revisit the decision at any time.
Methyl iodide has been subject to ongoing controversy in its approval process. The U.S. EPA 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. Even though a report from an independent panel of scientists in California's review 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 state 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 surrounding populations.
While we hope California will do the right thing and not approve methyl iodide, the only surefire way to keep this poison away from workers and our food is to ban it at the federal level.
Thank you for standing up for safe and healthy food.
Adam Klaus, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

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