May 1, 2012
Arysta LifeScience withdrew methyl iodide from the marketplace just in time to avoid losing a lawsuit over the controversial fumigant.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch Tuesday dismissed a complaint against the Tokyo-based manufacturer and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
"The decision was appropriate," writes DPR spokeswoman Lea Brooks by email. "The case is moot because methyl iodide is no longer registered in California." Arysta representatives declined to comment on the case.
Arysta sent shockwaves through the agricultural community, particularly Monterey County's $750 million strawberry industry, with the announcement March 20 they planned to pull methyl iodide, marketed as MIDAS, from the United States.
That same day, Arysta attorney Stanley Landfair of San Francisco-based McKenna Long & Aldridge filed a request for a hearing with Roesch on the matter of a dismissal. Roesch told the parties he'd already made up his mind and was partway through writing his decision in favor of the plaintiffs' (Earthjustice, California Rural Legal Assistance, Pesticide Action Network of North American and others) contention that DPR should have more robustly investigated alternatives to fumigant approval, in keeping with the California Environmental Quality Act.
With that intended victory in mind, CRLA attorney Michael Marsh says plaintiffs intend to request DPR and Arysta pay attorneys' fees.
Though an appeal is unlikely, but Marsh says the legal process set the stage for future legal battles by anti-pestcide advocates, who would still like to see the courts could make the process of approving new pesticides in California more costly for manufacturers.
"[Future complaints] would have a very focused case on alternatives analysis required by CEQA, and go for it in a very focused way looking at just that one angle," Marsh says.
"We're disappointed by Judge Roesch's decision," Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network spokesman says by email. Though they met their objective to get methyl iodide pulled from the state, Towers and Marsh say they'd like to see a more thorough overhaul of the pesticide registration process.
"Until the agency considers and advances safe and effective pesticide alternatives, California farmers will remain trapped on the pesticide treadmill," Towers says.
Brooks notes this process is well underway. DPR Director Brian Leahy appointed a panel of ag experts just last week to develop a research action plan on alternatives to fumigants.
"DPR recognizes the urgency and is taking steps to identify and develop management tools and practices to control soil-borne pests in strawberry fields without fumigants to maintain this vital $2.3 billion industry," Brooks adds.
For more on this story, visit www.mcweekly.com/methyl.