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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Stop Methyl Iodide campaign ramps up

August 2011

by Beverly G. Bean

Local grassroots efforts are underway in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties to stop the use of methyl iodide. The campaigns use the slogans, "Say NO to Methyl Iodide" and "Demand Safe Strawberries!" The local effort, along with Pesticide Watch and Pesticide Action Network's national campaign, is especially important since growers in the Watsonville and Salinas areas produced 41% of California's crop in 2010. Strawberries in California are a $2.1 billion industry. In addition to strawberries, many other local crops could be targeted for methyl iodide use. A primary goal of the campaign is to get both County Boards of Supervisors to sign a resolution against the use of this toxic, cancer-causing chemical.

"The impact of organic can also be personal. 'It's simply amazing,' says Dan. 'I can farm without a space suit on. I can walk off the bog and hug my kids without taking my suit off and spraying myself down. I used to have to say to my kids, 'Don't touch me, I'm poisonous right now.' But now I don't have to say that, and I can't tell you how good that feels."

—Dan Wandler,
organic cranberry farmer, Wisconsin
Source: Equal Exchange website

Fumigation season is approaching quickly, and there have been four applications of methyl iodide so far in California. An education forum is planned for September at Hartnell College in Salinas and likely speakers will include Assemblymembers Bill Monning and Luis Alejo, a local strawberry farmer, and a local pediatrician.

In December, 2010 the CA Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the registration of methyl iodide, allowing pesticide applicators to seek permits to fumigate with the highly toxic substance. Methyl iodide is the proposed replacement chemical for the banned ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide. Methyl iodide is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, and thyroid toxin which can also disrupt fetal development, cause miscarriages, and contaminate groundwater. It was nevertheless approved under lobbying pressure from chemical manufacturer Arysta LifeScience.

John Froines, PhD, professor of environmental health at UCLA, led the Department of Pesticide Regulation scientific review of methyl iodide. He remarked, "Science was subverted" in the approval process and "there is no safe level of release" when it comes to the fumigant.

Opposition is growing: the City of Watsonville, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Region IX), UFW, CA Rural Legal Assistance, CA Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Sierra Club Ventana Chapter, and many others have passed resolutions against the use of Methyl Iodide. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board opposes methyl iodide due to potential drinking water contamination. Thirty eight California legislators wrote to Governor Brown urging him to take immediate action to prohibit methyl iodide.

How to help

To sign a petition against the use of methyl iodide visit

To get more involved contact the activists below.

Monterey County: Gary Karnes, 402-9106, .

Santa Cruz County: Jenn Laskin, .

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