Controversial Pesticide Methyl Iodide Pulled from US Market

Highly toxic soil fumigant methyl iodide will no longer be sold in the US, to the relief of ecovores, farm workers, environmental scientists, and sustainability fans across the country.

Most often used in conventional strawberry and tomato farming, research shows methyl iodide to be a dangerous neurotoxin, carcinogen, miscarriage inducer, and endocrine disruptor. Farm workers’ groups, recent legislation, and books such as Tomatoland have contributed to increasing consumer awareness of methyl iodide’s health and environmental impacts.

Methyl iodide has been called too dangerous for agricultural use, and it was approved by the EPA in 2008 against the advice of toxicologists studying its effects. In 2010, methyl iodide was also approved for use in California, allegedly in violation of the state’s regulatory procedures for new pesticides. Last year lawyers for Earthjustice and California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. filed suit on behalf of several environmental and farmworkers’ rights groups, challenging methyl iodide’s approval.

Rather than wait for it to be banned, methyl iodide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience Inc. announced Tuesday they will no longer sell the controversial pesticide in the US. According to Business Week, “the company said the decision was based on the product’s economic viability in the United States.”

The status of the current California suit to overturn methyl iodide’s approval is unclear, but Arysta lawyers reportedly plan to ask for a hearing to determine whether the suit should continue.

According to Pesticide Action Network spokesman Paul Towers,

“Arysta saw the writing on the wall when they decided to pull the cancer-causing methyl iodide… Now is the time for California’s leadership to seize this opportunity for growers to move away from using pesticides and toward cutting-edge agriculture.”

Whatever happens with the California suit, methyl iodide is out of the US food system. Good job, informed consumers! When we make unsustainable agricultural practices equal unsustainable corporate profits, positive change occurs.

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Image credit: Creative Commons photo by mrsdkrebs.

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