Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Change To California Pesticide Regulations Worries Scientists

Scientists and pesticide regulators are at odds over California's recent approval of a toxic pesticide for strawberries.

strawberries

Photo: jen_maiser (via flickr)

Ninety percent of U.S. strawberries are grown in California - where methyl iodide has just been approved to use at levels 120 times higher than scientists deem to be safe.

Scientists and pesticide regulators are at odds over California’s recent approval of a toxic pesticide for strawberries.

The chemical pesticide, known as methyl iodide, is a fumigant. Fumigants are not applied to the plants themselves, but are used to pre-treat the soil prior to seeding. This means the health risks fall heavily on the shoulders of farm workers and their families.

Scientists warn that methyl iodide is a neurotoxin and has been shown to cause developmental disorders, thyroid cancer and miscarried pregnancies in animal studies.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation issued a notice to approve methyl iodide with an exposure limit of 96 parts per billion for workers, which is 120 times the level scientists have approved as safe.

In 2007, more than 50 chemists and physicians unsuccessfully petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency, asking the EPA to not approve the pesticide.

Read More:

  • Controversial Pesticide Worries Scientists (NPR)
  • Dispute Over Pesticide for California Strawberries Has Implications Beyond State (New York Times)
Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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