Opposition to cancer-causing methyl iodide is at a fever pitch in California, a year after the Schwarzenegger Administration approved the chemical for use in the state.
As Gov. Jerry Brown considers action on methyl iodide in 2012, as well as the appointment of a new chief pesticide regulator, it’s worth reflecting on PAN's efforts to ensure safe strawberries over the past year.
On Monday, Oct. 24, California strawberry fields may get their first dose of methyl iodide, exposing neighboring residents to the cancer-causing pesticide.
County officials granted the permit last week, the same day PAN and the United Farm Workers filed a lawsuit against the state and pesticide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience.
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network
October 14, 2011
1st Coastal, Strawberry Application of Methyl Iodide Approved
Santa Barbara County ag officials approve use of cancer-causing pesticide on same day lawsuit filed in court
Ever had lunch with a high-powered lobbyist for the chemical industry? As the Monterey County Weekly reported last week, a small-town high school teacher and a university graduate student were invited to share cookies at the offices of a well-known Sacramento lobbying firm concerned about the growing public opposition to the cancer-causing strawberry pesticide methyl iodide.
Goal of lunch: Diffuse and disorient the local movement against methyl iodide.
Target: visible community leaders.
Didn't work. The problem with the lobbyist's approach is that it's hard to dissect a movement, especially when so many people have the facts. As PAN's Kathryn Gilje previously reported, the movement is made up of high school students, chemists, farmers, farmworkers, moms and many others working in different ways to protect health and the environment. Just last May, over 200,000 people across the country called on EPA to ban methyl iodide.
Yesterday, PAN joined United Farm Workers (UFW) for part of their 13-day, 200-mile pilgrimage to Sacramento, demanding fair policies for farmworkers.
About 20 people affliliated with PAN, including Co-Director Kathryn Gilje, joined the march for workers' rights yesterday morning on a stretch of highway between Lodi and Galt. "Peak fumigation season in California's strawberry fields is just a few weeks away," she said. "Governor Brown should follow the science, ensure fair treatment for farmworkers and take immediate steps to pull methyl iodide off the shelves."
"Puzzled by some of the numbers...not scientifically credible...apparent 'mix and match' approach." These are some of the phrases found in a pair of memos authored by California officials looking into the state's controversial decision to approve methyl iodide.
The documents were unearthed by attorneys at Earthjustice earlier this week, working on behalf of PAN and the United Farm Workers, among others. They substantiate what independent scientists had been saying all along: state officials caved to pressure from pesticide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience and approved the use of cancer-causing methyl iodide in California.
PAN joins partners today in Sacramento in staging a mock “fumigation” on the Capitol’s west steps at 12:30pm to underscore the dangers posed by methyl iodide, and to keep the heat on Governor Jerry Brown. Dressed in “moon suits” and wearing gas masks, participants will simulate the process for fumigating strawberry fields: injecting the liquid pesticide into the ground – where it volatizes and becomes a gas – and sealing it into the soil with black tarps.
Red. Ripe. Delicious. That’s how you might describe the baskets of strawberries you see at your local farmer’s market or neighborhood store. What you don’t see are the green opportunities behind the berry – both environmental and economic – long before the fruit lands on your shortcake. And farmers say this deserves some attention.