Californians Tell New Pesticide Chief: Say No to Methyl Iodide

Last week, advocates from the Pesticide Action Network brought petitions with more than 60,000 signatures to the desk Brian Leahy, California’s new Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, calling on him to rescind approval of the highly toxic strawberry pesticide methyl iodide. Research has linked methyl iodide to cancer, miscarriages, and groundwater contamination, yet the Schwarzenneger DPR approved the toxic chemical despite concerns raised by independent scientists and the agency’s own staff scientists.

(Oddly, staff at the DPR office didn’t allow the health advocates to take a photo near the DPR logo. Apparently they think they own the rights to this logo, which like their salaries was paid for by California taxpayers. We think otherwise, so we fixed the photo.)

The signatures were gathered in just two weeks by groups including CEH, the United Farm Workers, Californians for Pesticide Reform and others. In a press statement, Susan Kegley, a consulting scientist for the Pesticide Action Network said, “Director Leahy must show his commitment to public health and scientific integrity by immediately suspending all uses of methyl iodide and reversing the approval of this cancer-causing fumigant.”

New DPR Director Leahy is a former organic farmer and spoke of the Department’s grants to support integrated pest management (IPM) in his remarks on taking office. In IPM farming systems, he noted, “Pesticides are used as a last resort and selected to remove only the target pest.”

Contrast this “last resort” approach to how one farmer described the use of pesticides like methyl iodide: “You know, if you have some pest outbreak in your house, the first thing you do is you pull out some ant spray or something like that, and that’s kind of what we have to do too, but on a much larger scale.”

When it comes to methyl iodide, a chemical that DPR’s scientific review committee found to be too dangerous to use safely, even a “last resort” is one resort too many.