Toxic Strawberry Fields Forever?

Pests may be the the least of California's worries

By Caitlin Matalone
|  Friday, Jun 4, 2010  |  Updated 8:19 AM PDT
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It's a pesticide so toxic, many chemists refuse to handle it. But soon, it could be used in strawberry fields around California -- including Salinas and Watsonville.

State regulators are set to approve the use of methyl iodide -- a highly toxic, potentially cancer-causing pesticide that is injected into fields before crops are planted.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation hopes to use the chemical to replace methyl bromide -- a pesticide that drifts into the atmosphere and damages the ozone layer.

The chemical is already licensed in 47 states and will become legal in California fields after a statewide 60-day comment period ends on June 29.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide under the Bush administration in 2007.

Researchers told the San Francisco Chronicle that 11 states have used the pesticide at least once -- mostly on strawberry, tomato and pepper fields.

So far, no problems have been reported, but researchers say that may be because very few studies have been held.

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