End Use of Highly Toxic Pesticides on Strawberry Fields - Forever!

  • by: Susan V
  • recipient: Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator

A horrible incident from March reveals just how dangerous the toxic pesticide methyl bromide can be. A Delaware family vacationing in the Virgin Islands was seriously harmed by its use in the condo below them. Their two teenage boys slipped into comas, and remained in critical condition six weeks later.

Though indoor abuse of the pesticide is rare, it reveals just how deadly the poison is, which raises even more concerns about chronic exposure to outdoor use. Those plump, juicy California strawberries come at a price - do we really want our children and others exposed to a chemical so toxic it can lead to Parkinson's disease?

This toxin harms the ozone and causes health problems ranging from birth defects to dizziness and nausea. It was supposed to have been banned by 2005 - but the EPA allowed loopholes that continue the use of this deadly poison.

According to Truthout, California used close to 4 million pounds of the toxin on fruits, especially on the soil used to grow strawberries, in 2012 alone. Even though the pesticide is legally restricted to outdoor use, that doesn't stop it from being abused or from harming workers - or from drifting to school yards and affecting our children.

If Europe can ban this pesticide altogether, there's no excuse for the EPA to prolong its use in the US. Insist the EPA end all exemptions for methyl bromide use - NOW.

Picture: Stock photo of generic pesticide use

We, the undersigned, say there's no excuse for continuing the use of this highly toxic pesticide.

According to Truthout, the exemptions have remained in place, despite the 2005 ban, because growers claim they are unable to change to an effective alternative. However, adds the report, growers in Europe have made the transition. Apparently they had to, because methyl bromide was fully banned there.

EPA's webpage on methyl bromides Visit http://www.epa.gov/ozone/mbr/
says that “Because MeBr depletes the stratospheric ozone layer, the amount of MeBr produced and imported in the U.S. was reduced incrementally [beginning in 1999] until it was phased out in January 1, 2005, pursuant to our obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Protocol) and the Clean Air Act (CAA).” The page goes on to note a schedule of phase out ending with a 2005 “100% phase out -except for allowable exemptions such as critical use exemptions agreed to by the Montreal Protocol Parties.”

Based on the reality of those “critical use exemptions,” it appears that this so-called phase out is a farce, especially considering the reported 4 million tons used in one state in one year alone!

. Visit http://www.pan-europe.info/Archive/downloads/ArticleMethylBromide01-2006.pdf

EPA says the Critical Use Exemption (CUE) is “designed for agricultural users with no technically or economically feasible alternative.” But how many of those using it really have no other choice, when countries in Europe are handling their transition to a completely methyl bromide-free environment and food supply?

Although the amount of allowed exemptions has been gradually reduced by the EPA since 2005, since 2013, EPA has authorized the total amount applied for, for use through 2016. Visit http://www.epa.gov/ozone/mbr/cueinfo.html

According to Mother Earth News, the poison, which is used to disinfect soil before strawberries are planted, is very damaging to the atmosphere - “60 times more damaging to the ozone layer then chlorofluorocarbons, which are banned.”

Pesticide Action Network's report on methyl bromide . Visit http://www.pan-europe.info/Archive/downloads/ArticleMethylBromide01-2006.pdf states that “All of the fruit and vegetables grown in Germany and the Netherlands are grown without methyl bromide – these countries stopped most uses of methyl bromide a long time ago, because of concerns about undesirable residues in water, ill-health and accidents among farm workers, and exposure of local communities who live near fields or food factories where methyl bromide gas is released into the air after use.”

We see no reason why the richest country in the world can't do the same, and we insist the EPA end all critical use exemptions to this deadly poison, methyl bromide.

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