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Strawberry Pesticide Abruptly Pulled from Market

March 22, 2012

It's the end of the line for methyl iodide.

The maker of the controversial strawberry pesticide is pulling out of California and the rest of the U.S. market. The announcement comes as an Alameda County Superior Court judge was about to issue his decision in a lawsuit aimed at stopping the use of the chemical.

Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who represents the United Farm Workers and seven other clients challenging the state's approval of the toxic fumigant, says the company's action is a victory for farm workers and those who live near strawberry fields.

"The decision to suspend all sales of methly iodide, not just in California but in the nation, is a tremendous victory and really ensures that the public will not be exposed to this dangerous chemical."

The manufacturer says the move is a financial decision based on market research. Methyl iodide was approved two years ago as a replacement for methyl bromide, but was rarely used in California.

California farmers are unlikely to be impacted by the removal of methly iodide. Loarie says there had been only five fumigations since the state approved its use in 2010. He says there are alternatives some farmers already are using.

"There's no question that we can grow food in California. We can grow high-quality food and affordable food without putting the public at risk, and we can do that without using dangerous chemicals."

One effort to improve the situation is being made by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation in partnership with the California Strawberry Commission. They're researching ways to avoid soil fumigants such as methyl iodide by exploring whether strawberries can be grown in peat or other substances.

More information is online at earthjustice.org.

Lori Abbott/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - CA