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Methyl iodide applied on a Sanger farm

Even as controversy continues to swirl about the use of methyl iodide in agriculture, the fumigant was used for the first time in California when it was applied to a one-acre Sanger chile pepper farm this month, the Fresno Bee reported.

The story, written by Robert Rodriguez, said the farm, northwest of DeWolf and North avenues, is owned by Sarkis Sarabian.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the use of methyl iodide in December and created restrictions that include buffer zones, special training and tarps to contain the chemical.

"These are the strictest conditions in the nation," Fresno agricultural commissioner Carol Hafner was quoted in the story. "And we made sure they were followed. Everything went fine."

The article generated numerous outraged comments.

"Our government is now in the business of feeding poison to people and telling us that it's good for us," said one.

"It's the biggest disgrace of our time. Killing a nation as well as the rest of the world with this garbage. Feeding people empty foods with little nutritional value. Nice to fatten your wallet while the world withers to dust," wrote another.

UC Riverside emeritus professor Jim Sims also posted a comment on the Fresno Bee website, pointing readers to a DPR document that explains DPR's decision to register methyl iodide. Sims is the patent-holder for methyl iodide as a soil fumigant. He spent more than 30 years researching the chemical in the lab and in the field.

Sims recently penned the "pro" view of a "point/counter point" op-ed piece about methyl iodide for The Salinas Californian.

He said that:

  • Methyl iodide doesn't make the cancer-causing-chemical lists of the world's leading agencies for cancer research.
  • Methyl iodide is a naturally occurring compound present in the sea and air and on land.
  • Research demonstrates that methyl iodide does not get into groundwater supplies.
  • Methyl iodide has been used on thousands of acres in the United States without a single negative impact to human health or the environment.

The "con" view was written by Pesticide Watch Education Fund director Paul S. Towers.

He said that:

  • Methyl iodide is so reliably carcinogenic that it is used in the lab to create cancer cells.
  • Washington state denied the use of methyl iodide based on California's scientific review.

UCCE farm advisor Brad Hanson posted this photo of methyl iodide application on his weed science blog.

For more on methyl iodide, see Hanson's December 2010 blog post.

Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:22 AM

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