Strawberry Fields For(n)ever - California Approves Use of Methyl Iodide

There is a long list of people asking the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), “What part of ‘no‘ don’t you understand?”

Assessments from top US scientists and the DPR’s own Scientific Review Committee advised against its use (its a potent carcinogen and water contaminant), eight California cities urged the DPR to deny approval, and the State of Washington prohibits its use. So why has the California DPR approved the use of methyl iodide in strawberry fields?

The State of California – and the high-power pesticide industry lobbyists – say that the regulations are in place to protect against its risks. The farm workers who apply the pesticides and those who harvest the berries are in the front line at risk. They have no lobbyists calling for safer working conditions.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) advises consumers to avoid commercial strawberries and choose organic instead. On the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list of the 12 most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, strawberries are rated third worst, right after celery and peaches.

When Arysta LifeScience – methyl iodide manufacturer and the largest privately held pesticide company in the world – says that strawberries can’t be grown in California without pesticides, I suggest they read recent research from Washington State University. According to the study that compared side by side plots of organic and conventional strawberries in California:

  • The organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.
  • The organic strawberries had longer shelf life.
  • The organic strawberries had more dry matter, or, “more strawberry in the strawberry.”
  • The organic soils excelled in a variety of key chemical and biological properties, including carbon sequestration, nitrogen, microbial biomass, enzyme activities, and micronutrients.
  • The organically managed soils had dramatically more total and unique genes and greater genetic diversity, important measures of the soil’s resilience to stress and ability to carry out essential processes.

Photo credit: atomicshark, used with permission under Creative Commons license.