Timing is everything. On March 20, Arysta LifeScience pulled its cancer-causing pesticide, methyl iodide, from the U.S. market. The decision came after years of public outcry against the undue influence that Arysta, the largest privately held pesticide corporation in the world, had on science and governance during the rulemaking.
Interestingly enough, Arysta's decision was announced on the eve of a critical hearing in the methyl iodide lawsuit that Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance filed on behalf of Pesticide Action Network, farmworkers, Californians for Pesticide Reform and many others.
The lawsuit charges that California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) violated state laws during the pesticide's approval, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Birth Defects Prevention Act.
During the March 21st hearing, the Honorable Judge Frank Roesch issued an unofficial preliminary verdict indicating that DPR had indeed violated CEQA — as well as their own regulations — when registering methyl iodide. The Judge indicated that it was likely they had violated the Birth Defects Prevention Act as well, but didn't feel he needed to go there.
For now, the lawsuit will move forward, with potentially significant consequences for how all pesticides are approved in California, since a key part of the process that was overlooked in methyl iodide's approval was the need for new pesticides to be considered only alongside other alternatives.
This is exactly the type of pesticide policy PAN and our partners are looking for — one that proactively supports farmers in choosing the safest alternative available to a pest problem, rather than ushering in more and more pesticide industry products.
Arysta, for its part, argues that the case is moot because they pulled their product the night before the hearing and quickly worked with DPR to secure a voluntary cancellation in California. On May 1, Judge Roesch will decide whether or not the suit will move forward to the next stage.
PAN, for our part, will continue full steam ahead. Along with assisting with this precedent-setting lawsuit, we're now working with partners in other countries where Arysta has secured approval for methyl iodide: Mexico, Guatemala, Japan, Morocco, Turkey, Uruguay and New Zealand.
PAN was founded by people around the world determined to stop pesticides that are banned in one place from being pushed into someone else's community. Methyl iodide is no exception, and PAN International is on the case.