Methyl Iodide Approved under Industry Pressure

Methyl Iodide was approved almost a year ago by the State of California to be used in the production in many different crops but most widely known in the growing of Strawberries.  It’s been a controversial decision ever since and many State and National organizations have been pushing for not only the State to reconsider this approval but has sued the State and California has also asked the EPA to ban the toxic pesticide all together because of it is a known carcinogen and often used in the laboratory to create cancer.

California Watch has uncovered more evidence that the State’s approval was due to influence by the pesticide’s manufacturer Arysta LifeScience and they went to great lengths to influence the scientific evidence on whether to ban their pesticide due to safety concerns.  And there are many safety concerns.

The Feb. 16, 2010, memo by an executive of methyl iodide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience said maximum exposure levels that the state’s scientists had recommended for workers and people who live near agricultural fields were unacceptable to the company because they were too low.

“It is essential to revisit the toxicology assessment to come up with less conservative assumptions,” wrote John Street, the company’s global head of development and registration.

The memo was addressed to Jim Wells of Environmental Solutions Group, a Sacramento-based consulting firm that Arysta hired to help win regulatory approval for methyl iodide in California. Wells served as director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in the 1990s.

Street recommended a range of exposure levels Arysta would support and laid out the calculations state pesticide regulation managers could make to arrive at those levels.

Eight months later, DPR managers overruled their own toxicologists – and a panel of expert scientists the department had commissioned to review the toxicologists’ work – and approved the use of methyl iodide at so-called regulatory target levels nearly identical to the lowest levels Street said would be acceptable to Arysta.

Arysta got to dictate what levels of Methyl Iodide are safe for human exposure even though in reality the Department of Pesticide Regulation set those standard much lower.  Why would they do that?  I mean, why would DPR set such low levels?  Oh that’s right, we have such regulations set forth in order to protect human health and environmental resources like water and soil but hey, if the manufacturer of the product, who is set to make a hefty profit by the sale of the pesticide says it’s safe, it must be safe!

Over and over again we are seeing the regulating arms of our Government, that are there to protect consumers, workers and those who live near agriculture (because in the case of methyl iodide, it’s not just about the people who eat the food its treated with, it’s a great health risk to those who work with it and live near it) being bought and sold by lobbyists of the Corporations set to profit dearly.

Ultimately this is not just about a broken system of who gets to say what is done where, but a broken food system that is far too dependent on artificial fertilizers and pesticides that not only puts our health at risk but our very precious resources as well.  We often think of water in California since it’s such a highly demanded commodity but soil should also be seen as a nonrenewable resource.  Healthy, untainted soil is also important to growing food and we are taking that resource for granted.