Methyl bromide was once the pesticide used by California farmers for conventional farming methods. Conventional farmers were dependent on the use of this product to kill pests and disease by injecting it in the soil.
For protection against the pesticide, applicators wore full-body suits and gas masks. Fields were covered by plastic tarps to enclose the toxic gas.
Several years ago, methyl bromide was only one of the many chemicals used for conventional farming in California. However, during the duration of its use, there was much controversy. Citizens were worried of its affects of the chemicals drifting to nearby public schools and lawsuits were filed as a result.
It was a battle between the growers who believed banning the usage of this pesticide would harm productivity of crops and environmental advocates that were concerned of the exposure to high toxicity levels.
The environmentalists came up semi-triumphant with the state of California posing new laws that would widened buffer zones, set limit on usage levels, and establish requirements when the chemical could be sprayed.
The new rules were not enough to assuage ecological activists and they eventually were victorious when methyl bromide was phased out by the UN treaty because of its contribution to a hole in the ozone layer. Although, conventional farmers were granted permission to use the pesticide for an extended period of time, they knew an alternative substance to protect their crops would soon be needed.
Methyl iodide became the solution to shielding California crops from pests and disease; however, the chemical was believed to be more toxic than methyl bromide. So, what allowed methyl iodide from being banned with the other harmful chemicals? No harm to our ozone layer.
And this week, among 47 other states, California approved the usage of methyl iodide despite the findings by a scientific panel. The ruling was based on a risk assessment that the pesticide could be safely used in moderation.
Will this ruling stand and prove to be environmentally safe with regulated distribution or will further findings reverse the approval and leave conventional farmers searching for yet another pesticide to maintain their yield? We’ll let the future tell the story.