Environmentalists and farmworkers have challenged approval of a toxic fumigant and carcinogen for use on California crops and are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to reverse the decision. The coalition of advocacy groups filed a lawsuit calling the decision to register methyl iodide as a pesticide “irresponsible and illegal.” The chemical, produced by Arysta Life- Science Corp. primarily for use on strawberry fields, was approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation despite concern from some scientists, toxicologists and environmentalists. The lawsuit claims methyl iodide is a poison that causes cancer and thyroid disease and can harm the lungs, liver, kidneys, brain and central nervous system.
The suit was filed in state court by Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. on behalf of the United Farm Workers of America and several pesticide reform groups. It claims state approval of methyl iodide violates the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Birth Defects Prevention Act and the Pesticide Contamination Prevention Act. The Plaintiffs have accused the department of fast-tracking approval with an emergency declaration that was a ploy to win passage before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger left office.
Scientists first began experimenting with methyl iodide in the mid-1990s as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was being phased out because it was found to damage the ozone layer. It was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 for use as a fumigant over the protests of more than two dozen California legislators and 54 scientists, including six Nobel laureates, who signed a letter opposing registration of the chemical. Methyl iodide is now licensed for use in 47 states.
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