International Organics Weekly - Edition 72

This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...


 

There is serious concern among many regarding recent approval of methyl iodide use in California. Sam Fromartz provides more details and background.

California Recipe: Strawberries with a dose of Methyl Iodide

The judge in that case has issued his decision, and it's a mixed bag. In essence, the judge appears to be aiming for a compromise position which looks to give farmers who are growing genetically modified sugar beets the time frame of a growing season to convert to non-gm crops.

Several years ago, looking into the differences between organic and conventional farming methods, I focused on strawberries as a case study.

At the time, conventional growers depended on methyl bromide, a potent neurotoxin that is injected into the soil to kill pests and diseases. The applicators wore full body suits with gas masks. The ground was covered in plastic to help keep the toxic gas contained. These fields looked like something out a futuristic moonscape, covered in plastic with workers in full hazmat suits. It was just one of the many toxic chemicals used in the conventional strawberry regime. I described all this in a chapter of my book Organic, Inc. Many people told me that after they read that chapter they never bought a conventional strawberry again.

Methyl bromide was always particularly controversial. Law suits were filed because of drift of this pesticide to nearby public schools on the central coast of California, the heart of the strawberry industry. The issue for the courts: Was the drifting chemical at sufficiently low levels to be safe?

[...]

 This week, California, which has among the most rigorous pesticide regulations in the nation, approved methyl iodide for use. This came despite the unanimous findings of its own scientific panel against approval of the chemical. California Watch quoted a member of this panel.

"It is my personal opinion that this decision will result in serious harm to California citizens, and most especially to children," wrote panel member Theodore Slotkin, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University.


 

Jill Richardson adds more to the same conversation and tells what you can do.

ACTION: Fight Methyl Iodide Legalization

The judge in that case has issued his decision, and it's a mixed bag. In essence, the judge appears to be aiming for a compromise position which looks to give farmers who are growing genetically modified sugar beets the time frame of a growing season to convert to non-gm crops.
The legalization of methyl iodide was a two-step process. First, under Dubya, the federal government gave it the green light. In California, it needed a second green light before it could be used. That's what came today. A number of groups (see press release below) are calling on the incoming Jerry Brown administration to immediately put a moratorium on the use of methyl iodide.

The history of this story requires a bit of explaining. It begins with the fact that strawberries were never meant to be grown in monoculture in the same fields year after year after year. They just weren't. But that is, of course, what the farms that grow them in California do.

To do it, they kill everything in the soil using a soil fumigant before they plant the strawberries. In the past, they used a chemical called methyl bromide. Methyl bromide is an incredibly potent destroyer of the ozone layer, and for years now, it's been getting phased out internationally. (Although, under Bush II, the U.S. didn't really go along with the program on phasing it out.)

Now the berry farms "need" a replacement to methyl bromide. That's where methyl iodide comes in. Rather than changing the way we grow strawberries, we are about to continue growing them with ever more toxic chemicals. (And honestly, have you ever compared the difference in taste between a fresh-picked strawberry and the kind you get at the store? To me the berries being grown with these chemicals - or even organic berries that are picked under-ripe to ship across the country - aren't even worth eating.)

Please, take action here, and read the following press release from Pesticide Action Network, Pesticide Watch, and Californians for Pesticide Reform.

 


 

Please allow me a soapbox moment. It genuinely pisses me off to see 'experts' discuss that organics provide no real nutritional advantage over their conventional counterparts, because this argument willfully ignores the presence of pesticides.

And speaking of pesticides...

Working with pesticides linked to dementia: study

Long-term exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study released Thursday.

Workers "directly exposed" to bug and weed killers while toiling in the prestigious vineyards of Bordeaux, France were five times more likely to score less well on a battery of neurological tests than those with minimal or no exposure, the study found.

As revealing, this high-exposure group was twice as likely to register a significantly sharp drop in a key test -- frequently used to diagnose dementia -- repeated four years after the initial examination.

The drop "is particularly striking in view of the short duration of follow up and the relatively young age of the participants," mostly in their late 40s or 50s, the authors said.

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that chronic use of pesticides in agriculture boosts the risk of neurological disorders.


 

In the recent massive Wikileaks dump, here's some news that flew under the radar. File this one under WTF.

Wikileaks: State Dept. wants intel on African acceptance of GMOs

The judge in that case has issued his decision, and it's a mixed bag. In essence, the judge appears to be aiming for a compromise position which looks to give farmers who are growing genetically modified sugar beets the time frame of a growing season to convert to non-gm crops.

The Wikileaks release of U.S. State Department classified diplomatic cables may be problematic, but it has been quite a trove of information on the workings of our diplomatic corps. For the most part, the dump has confirmed things that we already knew about U.S. policy -- and that seems to be the case regarding the one mention of agricultural policy in these thousands of emails and documents (no doubt there are more) to which I was alerted.

Buried deep in a document that outlines priorities for intelligence gathering in the African "Great Lakes" countries of Burundi, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda is a list (for the most part, very reasonable) of what the State Department would like to know about the region's agricultural policy. Things like government policies on food security and food safety top the list, for example, along with information on the impact of rising food prices in these countries. Agricultural yield statistics, infrastructure improvements, data on deforestation and desertification, water issues, and invasive species are included as priorities for "reporting" as well.

But also getting its own line item on the intel priority list is this:

Government acceptance of genetically modified food and propagation of genetically modified crops.


 

Related Reading:

Food Insecurity and Climate Change
Bringing Back the Honeybee

Follow us on Twitter!

Add a comment
  • to get your picture next to your comment (not a member yet?).
  • Posted on Dec. 3, 2010. Listed in:

    See other articles written by Doug »

    Pledge to do these related actions

    Food for Change: eat only plant-based foods for one whole WEEK, 116°

    What is it like to eat only plant-based foods for a whole week? If you ...

    Write to a politician .... every week from now on., 21°

    If you truly care about our collective futures, with regard to things like climate change, ...

    Eat more vegetables, 2319°

    Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that if ...

    Follow these related projects

    Trees Offsetting Carbon Deposits

    Central New York, United States

    Featured Companies & Orgs