The Pesticide that Won’t Go Away…Watch Your Strawberries

Friday, September 09, 2011
Methyl bromide, a hazardous pesticide that most farmers were supposed to stop using six years ago, is still being sprayed in large quantities in parts of California.
An international agreement called for the phaseout of methyl bromide by 2005. But the treaty’s fine-print allowed for certain growers, such as strawberry farmers, to continue using the chemical, which has been linked to birth defects and other health problems.
According to the latest figures, more than five million pounds of the pesticide were sprayed in 2009, representing only a 50% reduction in use since 2000.
In some agricultural counties, levels of methyl bromide are almost as high as they were a decade ago. Monterey County, the state’s main strawberry production area, has only cut its use by 24% from 10 years ago (from 1.7 million pounds in 1999 to 1.3 million pounds in 2009).
The situation is similar in Santa Cruz County, which dropped its use from 564,000 pounds to 400,000 pounds.
In San Luis Obispo County, use of the chemical has actually gone up, from 110,000 pounds in 1999 to 125,000 pounds in 2009.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Pesticide Problem: Exposure Ups Prostate Cancer Risk (by Heather Volk and Wendy Hessler, Environmental Health News)
The Phaseout of Methyl Bromide (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)


Carolyn O'Donnell 13 years ago
this article only tells half of the story. the following note was sent to the original author of the referenced article, and the editors at new america media. no response has been received to date. ms. nguyen – i was surprised and disappointed to read your story this morning about methyl bromide use in california. you state in your article that “…little has changed.” but, in fact many things have changed. the california strawberry industry has invested more than $13 million dollars in research to develop additional options to deal with soil borne disease, including plant breeding (but not genetic engineering), soil steaming, mustard seed meal treatments, and a raised bed – trough system. you can find more information about the research funded by the state’s 500+ strawberry growers at please feel free to contact me if you have further questions regarding california strawberries. best regards, carolyn carolyn o'donnell communications director california strawberry commission

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