September 12, 2011
Summer is fumigation season in California, and this is the first year growers have had the option to apply methyl iodide, marketed as Midas, to their fruit and vegetable fields. Opposition to the fumigant has come from public health and farmworker rights activists, as well as the scientific community which has lined up against registration of the product both by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Now, local groups are asking the County Board of Supervisors to take a position against methyl iodide. In a Sept. 7 letter submitted to Board Chair Jane Parker, the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas Valley chapters of the League of Women Voters join in asking the board to pass a resolution opposing the use of methyl iodide in Monterey County.
Beverly Bean, president of the Monterey Peninsula chapter, says it's unusual for the League to take a position on an agricultural product, but in this case, the high toxicity combined with regulators' process for registering methyl iodide constitute the "most egregious" new pesticide registration in a long time.
"The League is very concerned with process, in addition to the fact that it’s an extremely toxic chemical, and DPR and the influence that was brought to bear on them. Documents showed they were deeply influenced by the economics of the chemical company," Bean says.
A county resolution, however, would not trump state authority. The County Agricultural Commissioner, Eric Lauritzen, says as long as requests to apply the fumigant fall within the state's rules for use, the County Board of Supervisors wouldn't block his authority to approve an application.
Bean acknowledges a county resolution wouldn't in and of itself have the power to block methyl iodide from being applied. "It's purely a statement to bring pressure at the state level," she says. "We want Gov. Brown to appoint a new head of DPR, and they need to take up this issue again and look at it more scientifically."
To date, methyl iodide has not been applied in Monterey County.
Several community groups, along with assemblymen Bill Monning and Luis Alejo, will present a community forum on methyl iodide Thurs., Sept. 29 at 6:30pm in Steinbeck Hall, Hartnell College, 411 Central Ave., Salinas. Monning, chair of the California Assembly Committee on Health, is the keynote speaker.