In an 11th-hour move, Governor Schwarzenegger's Department of Pesticide Regulation has approved methyl iodide for use in strawberry fields. This chemical is a potent carcinogen and neurotoxin.
The decision flies in the face of overwhelming public and scientific opposition. Prior to the decision, the DPR saw its largest public comment period ever, with 53,000 comments, most of them urging the state to ban the pesticide. But in the end, lobbying and media campaign by Arysta LifeScience -- the company that manufactures methyl iodide -- persuaded the DPR to put corporate interests ahead of public health.
Now is the time to double down. In January, Governor-Elect Jerry Brown will take office, and he will have the power to issue an immediate moratorium on methyl iodide. He can also reconvene the review committee and direct the DPR to actually listen to their scientific recommendations this time.
The science on this chemical speaks for itself. Methyl iodide is a known carcinogen, neurotoxin and thyroid toxicant. It induces late-term miscarriages and damages developing fetuses in laboratory animals. Fumigating fields with the gas -- even with the strictest regulations -- would no doubt still result in unacceptable exposures to farmworkers and surrounding populations.
DPR approved the chemical despite a report from its own independent panel of scientists declaring that "methyl iodide is a highly toxic chemical and we expect that any anticipated scenario for the agricultural or structural fumigation use of this agent would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact to public health."
This is a clear instance of corporate influence over-riding science and the public interest. Governor-Elect Brown needs to take a public stance against methyl iodide and make a moratorium one of his first priorities in office.