Methyl iodide is a fumigant used predominantly on California strawberry fields. It is also a substance that is so toxic it is used in labs to grow cancer cells. The State Department of Pesticide (CDPR) approved methyl iodide for agricultural use last December, much to the dismay of environmental and public health experts, five Nobel laureates, and the CDPR’s own Scientific Review Panel.
Non-profits such as Pesticide Action Network and Californians for Pesticide Reform have been pressuring the Governor’s office to reverse the much-maligned decision. The Pesticide Action Network (North America) has even drafted a petition exhorting the EPA to suspend and cancel all uses of methyl iodide. Since he began his term, Governor Brown has stayed silent on the matter, that is, until now.
The Ventura County Star is reporting that Governor Brown will take a “fresh look” at the decision to approve the fumigant. His remarks came in response to a question by the Star at an Agriculture Day event on the Capitol lawn. When asked how he will proceed with the approval of methyl iodide, the Governor said he has “no immediate strategy.”
For opponents of the pesticide, Brown’s limited statements are a step in the right direction. They come only one week after Mary-Ann Warmerdam, head of the CDPR after her appointment by Gov. Schwarzenegger, resigned from her post to take a lucrative job at Clorox Co.
Then, on March 17th, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened a public comment period on a petition filed last year by a coalition of health, environmental and farmworker advocacy groups. Citing links to various organ diseases, late-term miscarriages and neurological problems, the petition demands that methyl iodide be banned. The EPA originally approved methyl iodide in 2007 with one promise by officials: that California’s then forthcoming treatment of the fumigant under its stricter state pesticide laws might sway the federal government to take a second look at its own decision.
There is an April 29 deadline to submit comments to the EPA. You can submit yours here.