While we have no qualms with reasonable and wise conservation efforts, environmentalism crosses a line when it places human health second to the earth. That is exactly what is happening in California, where the pesticide methyl bromide is being phased out due to its damage to the ozone. It is expected to be replaced with methyl iodide, one of the most controversial pesticides in existence. Methyl iodide is so reliably carcinogenic that it is used in laboratories to induce cancer in test animals. Some toxins will increase one's chances of cancer, but this stuff guarantees it.
The pesticide will be used on strawberry fields, and it is to be sprayed onto the soils before strawberries are planted. It is to be absorbed through the roots into the plant itself, instead of being externally applied. This means that the pesticide will not just be on the outside of the strawberries. It will be present throughout the entire plant. Good luck in washing that off. Unfortunately, such pesticides are becoming the trend. The growing popularity of these pesticides is due to the fact that they alleviate massive amounts of work for conventional farmers, since there is no need for reapplications.
There will be no way to avoid consuming such pesticides (except purchasing organic). This will be a major step backwards for a State that has previously been the best in protecting people from carcinogenic substances. Proposition 65 forced a large range of dangerous chemicals to be identified on labels. Methyl iodide itself is listed in the proposition 65 list, with a note of its carcinogenic capacity. So, we must wonder if California-grown strawberries will bear the prop. 65 warning.
Many researchers have concluded that methyl iodide is furthermore neurotoxic, causing irreversible brain damage. In 2007, dozens of scientists and chemists joined together to write to the E.P.A., requesting that they prevent the use of methyl iodide:
"As chemists and physicians familiar with the effects of this chemical, we are concerned that pregnant women and the fetus, children, the elderly, farm workers, and other people living near application sites would be at serious risk if methyl iodide is permitted for use in agriculture."
Ironically, this pesticide is also known to do environmental damage through water contamination. The fact that it is being introduced to reduce harm to the environment makes this situation even more puzzling. Regardless, the effects on human health are indisputable.
"Alkylating agents like methyl iodide are extraordinarily well-known cancer hazards in the chemical community because of their ability to modify the chemist’s own DNA... In addition to the potential for increased cancer incidence, U.S. EPA’s own evaluation of the chemical also indicates that methyl iodide causes thyroid toxicity, permanent neurological damage, and fetal losses in experimental animals."
Earlier this year, a scientific panel warned that the introduction of methyl iodide would bring increased occurrences of late-term miscarriages, increased cases of thyroid disease, and cancer. However, all of this hard evidence seems to be getting ignored, in favor of Japanese manufacturer, Arysta LifeScience Corporation. State regulators are expected to make a decision on this pesticide at any time. Unfortunately, they seem to be unresponsive to the massive amount of public pressure that they have received. While this chemical has already been approved by the E.P.A., it is not widely used. Approval in California will change that, particularly when we consider that the majority of strawberries come from The Golden State. Hopefully, more farmers will consider going organic if sites like ours keep people informed about what they are doing.
When this pesticide becomes widely used, which is possible in a matter of weeks, then the otherwise healthy sweetener Xylitol will be tainted as well. It is made from strawberries.
Update: Arysta LifeScience Inc., the chemical company that is responsible for the distribution and marketing of methyl iodide has decided to stop selling to the United States.