Huge Victory for Farm Workers on the Pesticide Front

Published on
March 21, 2012

strawberries, farmworkers, occupational health, pesticides, methyl iodide, Alma Martinez, reporting on healthArysta LifeScience, the manufacturer of methyl iodide, a toxic fumigant used in soil preparation for strawberries, carrots and other vegetable crops, has just announced that it is suspending all sales of the known carcinogen in the U.S. This news comes as a huge surprise and victory for farm worker advocates and environmentalists that have waged a fierce campaign to block the use of methyl iodide in California's fields. In fact, the public awareness campaign headed by these groups is largely credited with a record 50,000 comments submitted to California's Department of Pesticide Regulation.

Farm worker champions maintain that the use of methyl iodide would be a serious health threat to farm workers, especially applicators. Advocates claim that farm workers do not receive adequate training or equipment to apply dangerous pesticides. Another factor of grave concern is the fact that most farm workers lack medical insurance coverage.

With the use of methyl iodide, health concerns went beyond the fields. According to scientists, because methyl iodide's toxic fumes would linger close to ground level, it would have been a direct threat to communities neighboring the fields- exposing residents to poisonous gases. This victory is described by Michael Marsh, directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance as "a major victory that only happens once in a decade."

Photo credit: James Lee via Flickr