From SantaCruz.com, Tessa Stuart, 28 Sept 2011.
Local leaders and agencies will discuss the impacts of methyl iodide at a public forum in Salinas Thursday
In June 2010, John Froines, chair of the independent Scientific Review Committee convened by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to evaluate the soil fumigant methyl iodide, stood on the floor of the California State Assembly and called the substance “without question one of the most toxic chemicals on Earth.”
In December 2010, it was approved for use on strawberries in California.
“The department of pesticide regulation, in the last days of the Schwarzenegger administration, approved methyl iodide for use, and it seemed that there was a rush to market, and they disregarded their own scientific review committee to get it out there,” says Gary Karnes, a volunteer with Monterey County Safe Strawberry.
The organization is one of several supporting a public forum, “Methyl Iodide and Our Community—Learn the Facts,” in Salinas on Thursday evening.
Assemblyman Bill Monning, who chairs the State Assembly’s Committee on Health and who has called for the cancellation of the DPR’s approval of the permit in the past, will present the keynote speech. Among the co-sponsors of the event are United Farm Workers and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte; the latter has come out strongly against the use of methyl iodide based on evidence the pesticide can cause late-term miscarriages.
Organizers hope to educate members of the community about the health risks associated with the fumigant. “There have been discussions in hearings out of earshot of the public,” Karnes says of the meeting. “Different newspapers have editorialized about it, but this will be a forum for the public—the first one as far as I know.”
According to the Santa Cruz County Agricultural Commissioner, no growers in Santa Cruz have applied for a permit to use methyl iodide, an alternative to methyl bromide (banned in 2004, though numerous exemptions are granted). Methyl iodide is still legal for now, but mobilization at the federal, state and local levels could mean it is not for much longer.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency opened for public comment on the issue after being petitioned by the environmental group Earthjustice, and has stated an intention to revaluate its approval in 2013. In California, a petition asking Gov. Jerry Brown to repeal the permit is currently circulating (Brown has previously said he is open to the idea), and a local campaign in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, “Say NO to Methyl Iodide,” hopes to pressure both boards of supervisors to pass resolutions banning the pesticide.
METHYL IODIDE AND OUR COMMUNITY—LEARN THE FACTS is Thursday, Sept. 29, 6:30-8pm in Steinbeck Hall at Hartnell College, Central Ave. at Homestead Ave., Salinas.