- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez held a hearing of the Food and Agriculture Committee last Thursday to review the Department of Pesticide Regulation's tentative decision to approve the pesticide methyl iodide.
The hearing prompted wide news coverage over the weekend, including a story in the New York Times that said the discussion in California over methyl iodide has implications beyond the Golden State. The U.S. EPA has indicated DPR's decision may influence federal policy on the use of the pesticide nationwide.
The Times article reported that, at the hearing, members of the scientific committee that had reviewed methyl iodide for DPR - and suggested it not be registered - said the state’s decision to approve its use was made using "inadequate, flawed and improperly conducted scientific research."
“This is without question one of the most toxic chemicals on earth,” John Froines, UCLA professor of environmental health sciences, was quoted. “You don’t register a chemical when you don’t have the necessary information you need.”
Carolyn O'Donnell, the spokeswoman for the California Strawberry Commission, said the pesticide would be deployed by growers safely and only when needed.
“The 500-plus growers of strawberries in the state are largely family farmers who live where they grow,” O’Donnell was quoted in the Times. “When they make decisions about how and where they farm, they make those decisions with the health and safety of workers and the community in mind.”
An article in the Ventura County Star said stringent regulations would deter growers from using the chemical even if it were registered. Some proposed restrictions are a half-mile buffer zone around schools, hospitals and nursing homes, limiting application to protect groundwater and limiting the number of acres that can be treated.
The Roseville Press-Tribune said field fumigation with methyl iodide would be rare in Placer County.
“There is less need for pesticides to manage strawberry pests because we have fewer species of pests and lower pest populations, partly because we lack the intense cultivation of strawberries as on the Central Coast and farms are scattered throughout the county,” the article quoted Cindy Fake, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Placer and Nevada counties.
The Monterey County Herald ran a commentary about the issue written by State Assemblyman Bill Monning.
"It is unconscionable for DPR to proceed with the registration of methyl iodide when its own scientists have presented unequivocal evidence of extreme risk and insufficient data collection," Monning wrote.
The public comment period on the pending approval of methyl iodide ends on June 29./span>