When the strawberry fumigant methyl iodide was taken off the U.S. market last March, pesticidemaker Arysta continued to promote the use of the cancer-causing chemical in other countries.
In coordination with partners around the world, PAN is now working hard to ensure methyl iodide is also removed from the global market. Last month, PAN International sent a letter to EPA calling on the agency to restrict the export of methyl iodide to other countries.
EPA has the authority and opportunity to restrict the production of the chemical in the U.S. for export, limiting the likelihood that other countries will allow its use.
According to the the PAN International leaders:
"Allowing the formulation for export of an extremely highly hazardous and volatile chemical like iodomethane [methyl iodide] for agriculture in countries around the world is a recipe for health and ecosystem disaster."
Countries with a burgeoning agricultural industry, like Mexico, are particularly targeted by Arysta. In addition to strawberries, methyl iodide is marketed for use in melons and tomatoes. In the words of Fernando Bejarano, director of Pesticide Action Network Mexico:
“Given the evidence of damage to health and environment from the United States, the authorities of the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) should cancel the registration in Mexico."
The circle of poison
Over 30 years ago, the book Circle of Poison highlighted the fate of pesticides banned in U.S. and exported abroad. Authors David Weir and Mark Schapiro described how pesticides banned in the U.S. were applied to crops in countries with less protective environmental laws, and then sent back to the U.S. as residue on imported fruits and vegetables.
While real progress has been made on these issues through hard-fought international treaties, the efforts of Arysta to promote use of its product after methyl iodide was withdrawn from the U.S. market represents a stark reminder of the need for coordinated international efforts to keep harmful chemicals out of our food system.