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Victory! Cancer-Causing Methyl Iodide Banned in California

Methyl Iodide Banned in California

After years of promoting their product in the face of scientific opposition, pesticide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience yielded to mounting pressure and pulled cancer-causing methyl iodide off the US market on March 20, 2012. Arysta’s decision ends U.S. use of what state scientist reviewers called, “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth.” The chemical was approved in 2010 in California despite concerns voiced by both a panel of independent scientists and the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)’s staff scientists.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation followed by cancelling the registration of methyl iodide, meaning that the chemical is banned for agricultural use in California. These decisions came as California officials draw up a plan to help farmers transition away from fumigant pesticides, especially in the state’s strawberry fields.

Victory for the CPR coalition!

This is a huge victory for all of CPR member organizations and others -- from farmworkers to teachers to toxicologists -- who've daily been battling methyl iodide and Arysta, the largest privately-held agrochemical company in the world, for over four years. Congratulations to everyone who signed a petition, talked to a neighbor or took other action to get rid of methyl iodide in California! The CPR coalition was founded on the belief that we can accomplish greater results by working together rather than separately. This meaningful victory affirms our original inspiration yet again, and highlights the critical role working in coalition. 

Other supporters in the fight to ban methyl iodide in California included Boards of Supervisors in two counties in the heart of strawberry country, Santa Cruz and Monterey, who both passed resolutions opposing the use of the methyl iodide. The California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, California Federation of Teachers had also passed resolutions asking the Governor to ban methyl iodide. Assemblymember Bill Monning remained a champion throughout the campaign to prevent the use of methyl iodide and promote sustainable alternatives.

Due to broader questions about the pesticide registration process in California, the lawsuit challenging the approval of methyl iodide is still pending. The suit was filed in December 2010 by Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. on behalf of Pesticide Action Network North America, United Farm Workers of America, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Pesticide Watch Education Fund, Worksafe, Communities and Children, Advocates Against Pesticide Poisoning and farmworkers Jose Hidalgo Ramon and Zeferino Estrada.

Next steps for Safe Strawberries

Methyl iodide is a soil fumigant, a type of pesticide applied at very high rates per acre that easily transforms into a gas, making them difficult to control and prone to drift away from the application site. Although methyl iodide has been banned, dozens of other pesticides (including other highly toxic gaseous fumigants) can still be used in strawberry fields.

CPR is working hard to push the State of California to adopt safe alternatives to highly toxic fumigants. Stay tuned!

For more information about methyl iodide and safe alternatives, contact Tracey Brieger, CPR Co-Director, 415-981-3939 x6.