Fumigants on Monterey County soil

What would you like in your salad? Some methyl iodide? Methyl bromide? Both are pest and disease fumigants that farmers in Monterey County use on goods from leaf lettuce to strawberries. Methyl bromide hurts the Earth's ozone layer, so it has been used less and less over the past 5 years (the federal government frowns upon its use).

Because the government is phasing out methyl bromide, farmers might start planting fewer acres of veggies and fruits, most notably strawberries. First the rain ruins strawberry crops, and now this?? Do you realize what the economic impact of a reduction in strawberry crops would be? Loss of many, many jobs. Think about your drive through Salinas along Hwy 101. Growing and picking strawberries employs a lot of people!!

Farmers use fumigants to "clear the soil of pests, diseases and weeds, especially in commercial nurseries and the strawberry industry." Methyl iodide was intended to be a safer version of the bromide version.... intended being the key word. The eight member committee assessing the fumigant decided that the risk outweighs the reward. Methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, poses health risks to workers and the general population.

When working with fumigants, just one mistake can cause a lot of damage - we are talking thyroid cancer, respiratory tract lesions, and neurological effects (in lab animals). Last year alone pesticides were applied 120,000 times in Monterey County - just 1,183 were inspected via a 45-line checklist. A bit of a disparity, huh?

So what to do? Limit methyl iodide use, restrict crop production, prices go up, people become unemployed.... or ignore the science and expose farmers to a potentially harmful toxic chemical?

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