On Thursday June 17, representatives of tens of thousands of Californians who oppose the new pesticide methyl iodide presented Governor Schwarzenegger with letters and petitions calling on him to block state approval of the chemical. “Over 27,000 CREDO Action members alone have submitted public comments in opposition to methyl iodide,” said Adam Klaus, Campaign Manager for CREDO. “This toxic chemical has no place poisoning our food system or our farmworkers. The Department of Pesticide Regulation has a duty to stand up for Californians, not the big chemical and agribusiness companies.” Methyl iodide has been linked to long-term illnesses including cancer, miscarriages and brain damage, and is being considered for use on California strawberries and other crops. The pesticide is manufactured and promoted by Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience, the largest private pesticide company in the world.
The submission of petitions to the governor was followed by a legislative hearing convened by the California Senate Food and Agriculture Committee. Members of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s (DPR) own Scientific Review Committee on methyl iodide, a panel of internationally respected scientists, were brought in to testify at the hearing. Their findings on health were essentially ignored in DPR’s April 30, 2010 proposal to approve methyl iodide for use in California agriculture. Professor John Froines, who chaired the committee, told the hearing: “It’s simply not the case that one should move ahead on a chemical that’s so toxic that there’s evidence of its causing death and disease,” reports the Ventura County Star. “This is, without question, one of the most toxic chemicals on earth.”
For her part, DPR director Mary-Ann Warmerdam defended the proposal, saying that the state believes that farmworkers and neighbors can take safety precuations, including wearing tightly-fitted respirators at all times and vacating the area. State lawmakers countered that restrictions aren’t always followed out in the fields. According to CBS News, Warmerdam responded: "It is difficult for us to regulate … either stupidity, ignorance or violations of law." Karin Cushaway, who lives in Sisquoc, CA, at the edge of fields where methyl iodide would likely be used, responded: "It’s easy for our Governor and other state officials to agree to allow methyl iodide to be used because they don’t have it being applied in their back yards.” Kelli Grant, a neighbor, added: "Our back yard, where my children play, is never still. The wind is always blowing off the fields and it is terrifying that methyl iodide could soon be blowing into my back yard and my children will breathe it." DPR is expected to make a final decision after its public comment period closes on June 29th.