Panel assessing state's analysis of methyl iodide risk
The panel will make no direct recommendation on whether the California Department of Pesticide Regulation should allow methyl iodide to be used on strawberries and other crops, but its evaluation of the risk assessment conducted by state scientists could be critical in shaping the department’s final ruling, expected by the end of the year.
In a statement last month, department Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam said the risk assessment will “serve as the basis” for the state’s decision.
Methyl iodide is seen by farmers as a potential replacement for methyl bromide, a commonly used soil fumigant whose use is being phased out internationally because it contributes to damage of the Earth’s ozone layer.
The assessment by the state scientists concludes that methyl iodide poses a “significant” health risk for workers.
Because strawberries are such a significant crop, use of methyl bromide
The federal Environmental Protection Agency authorized the use of methyl
iodide in the
Environmental groups and farmworker advocates have lobbied against
registering methyl iodide in
Scientists for the Pesticide Action Network and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation are expected today to challenge some of the findings of the department’s risk assessment in testimony before the independent panel of scientists.
Also scheduled to testify are seven scientists affiliated with Arysta LifeScience Corp., the company that manufactures methyl iodide for pesticide use under the brand name Midas. In addition, the panel will hear from two scientists with the federal EPA.
In Thursday’s opening session, the panel heard from the state scientists who prepared the department’s risk study. The assessment looks at exposure levels to field workers, bystanders and residents of homes near fields that have been treated. It notes that laboratory tests on animals have shown fetal deaths, neurotoxicity and thyroid tumors are the most critical concerns.
It concludes that the application of methyl iodide “in field fumigation under the conditions evaluated results in significant health risks for workers and the general population.”
The review panel is chaired by John Froines, director of the Center for
Occupational and Environmental Health at UCLA, and includes researchers
from UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and
“The panel is charged with a very difficult task,” Froines said in opening remarks Thursday. “Everybody in the audience should rest assured that you’re going to get the best science.”