Poisonous Strawberry Process Begins—Stop the Spread!

The country's biggest strawberry-producing state is allowing farmers to fumigate with a carcinogenic compound.

July 19, 2011

Save it, don't spray it: The nation's largest strawberry source is about to start using a dangerous pesticide.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that California Gov. Jerry Brown reverse the state's approval of the use of a toxic, carcinogenic fumigant in strawberry fields. The DNA-damaging chemical, methyl iodide, is highly reactive, so much so that chemists are hesitant to handle it in the lab under controlled environments.

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Although the state approved the injection of methyl iodide into strawberry fields six months ago, most chemical strawberry growers haven't begun to use it yet because peak strawberry fumigation season is July/early August. Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) reports that a handful of other growers have already started injecting the chemical into the ground, though, putting farmworkers and communities at risk through air and groundwater contamination. "We are at a critical point," says Kathryn Gilje, executive director of PANNA. "Fumigation season is nearly upon us, and though there have just been a handful of methyl iodide applications so far, there could be many more in the next 30 days unless Brown takes action now."

[Correction: Rodale.com erroneously reported that some strawberry growers started using methyl iodide, however, it is other types of growers that started using the recently approved pesticide in California.]

This chemical is approved for chemical farmers in other states, as well, but the California approval is a huge deal because 90 percent of the nation's strawberries come from the state; it also produces more than half of America's fruit and a quarter of its vegetables.

An expert panel appointed by California's own Department of Pesticide Regulation advised against approving methyl iodide, which is linked to cancer, late-term miscarriages, and neurological problems. However, the Schwarzenegger administration gave it a last-minute approval before the governor's term ended. The current governor promised months ago to take another look at methyl iodide, but so far, it's still allowed.

For more background on the methyl iodide/strawberry debacle, please read Strawberry Fields (Poisoned) Forever.

Visit Change.org to sign the petition, and continue to support and grow organic to keep toxic chemicals out of our air, water, and soil.

Tags: Rodale News