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.