- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
They say all publicity is good publicity, so I'll point out a report about UC research that appeared on a blog and radio program titled Uprising - Subverting the Airwaves, broadcast on KBFK radio in Los Angeles and on the Web.
The premise is a proposed substitute for the fumigant methyl bromide, which is being phased out because it has been found to deplete ozone in the earth's atmosphere. The substitute, methyl iodide, was patented by UC Riverside, the story said, and licensed to Arysta LifeScience.
Methyl bromide has been important to the state's strawberry industry. Growers used it to control soil-borne pests and diseases that dramatically reduce strawberry yields. Methyl iodide does not harm the earth’s atmosphere, but many scientists and concerned citizens worry that it increases cancer, causes miscarriages and poses other health risks in humans and animals, said the program's host, Sonali Kolhatkar.
The guest on the show was Susan Kegley, a chemist and consulting scientist for the Pesticide Action Network. She said switching from methyl bromide to methyl iodide is analogous to leaping from the frying pan into the fire.
"This just seems like the wrong direction for California agriculture to be heading," she said.
Kegley mentioned that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation is currently considering the registration of methyl iodide in strawberries, and that the Pesticide Action Network is organizing a petition against the chemical's registration.
"The strawberry industry got together and developed a lot of techniques that would work, but are not in broad practice because (chemical) alternatives are available," Kegley said.