Strawberries and poisons

kmarsh@iol.ie forwarded an email from Reuben Ausher
<ausher@agri.huji.ac.il>, which said:
<<What's so bad about soil treatments (MB) applied prior to planting, and
residues detected in the produce? The same being true for pesticides as
as the tolerance levels for pesticide residues are met by growers. Safety
margins are enormous.>>

I suggest that anyone using or considering using methyl bromide (MB) first
make a sincere effort to get information on it from sources other than the
chemical manufacturers and the magazines that are dominated by their ads
and thus don't challenge their products.  I can't believe this person is
using/recommending MB with no apparent understanding of the harm that it
does. There are serious harmful consequences to choosing to use MB, to
onself, others, and the planet - and it's completely unneccesary, given
that a recent gathering of respected world scientists, gathered together in
a U. N. project, identified options to MB for 90% of its uses.  In
addition, MB is very expensive - a few years ago I heard $1400 an acre;
it's likely more now.  And we use 70,000 tons of it each yar, just in the
U.S. alone!  Why be harmful (and spend so much money) when we don't need

Regarding the specifics - residues or not the only problem that pesticides
cause.  For instance, I know that MB is:
1) A Class 1 ozone depleter, being one of the most destructive ozone
depleting chemicals that exist, doing extensive damage to our planet's
ozone skin, our only protection from harmful solar radiation, etc....; and
2) An odorless and invisible nerve and reproductive toxin (which is usually
why it's mixed with something to give it a smell), so people know when
they're exposed).  In fact, EPA classifies it among the most lethal of the
acutely toxic pesticides.

* According to international ozone scientists, MB rises to the stratosphere
where it breaks down to destroy the earth's protective ozone layer and
accounting for 1/2 to 1/3 of ozone loss predicted to occur by 2000.  It's
more powerful than other ozone-depleting chemicals, but more short-lived,
so stopping our use now, can make a big difference in our ozone loss.
* MB depletes the ozone layer 30 more rapidly than CFCs.  In 1993,
scientists found that 60% of the ozone layer was depleted over a 9 million
square mile area.
* As the ozone layer dissolves, more UV radiation reaches the earth's
surface; as a result of this ozone depletion, scientists have predicted
dramatic worldwise increases of skin cancers, immune system suppression,
blindness from cataracts, crop losses, weather changes [with its resulting
disruption and economic loss], extinction of endangered species, and damage
to all wildlife (that includes us, folks!).  Ozone loss also disrupts plant
growth (like on farms??), and marine phytoplankton, etc.

* Even before the extent of it's ozone harm was known, studies were showing
its extreme toxicity and ability to remain and drift into places where the
population could be exposed.  Cal-EPA Department of Pesticide Regulation
Director Jim Wells stated that the fumigant was on its way to being banned
in the state due just to its toxicity, even before its ozone depleting
nature was discovered.
* It's caused numerous deaths at levels commonly used for fumigation, as
well as nerve damage, with symptoms ranging from dizziness and headache to
permanent disability, respiratory distress and skin burns, as well as birth
defects at low levels of exposure.  It's the 4th leading cause of reported
farmworker injuries in Calif. 
* In state agency tests, it was learned MB could drift as far as 3.5 miles
from a fumigated field, at amounts that could cause birth defects and nerve
damage to people and animals.

* In 1992, the Dept of Defense saved $2.8 million by using Controlled
Atmospheres not MB on produce sent to the troops in the Pacific.

>> It is because of this proven harm that both the U.S. and the
international community has scheduled a phaseout of this dangerous toxin. 
I feel that it's time the ag community stop buying the chemical company
line about MB, look at the real reasons for this phaseout and the real
options to its use, and stop insisting that we can only grow food by
threatening the survival of us all.

NOTE: Thanks to Methyl Bromide Alternatives Network and Jody Young (and her
article about MB in the Environmental Impact Reporter, 3/94) from which
much of this information was excerpted.  For more info on MB and its
alternatives, please contact MBAN, which is a project of Pesticide Action
Network (PAN).
* Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), 116 New Montgomery, #810,
San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 541-9140. Fax:(415) 541-9253. Email:
panna@panna.org. Web site: http://www.panna.org/panna/.  Online mailing
list. Lots of international work.

ANOTHER NOTE:  I've been wondering about this list lately and why some
people are on it.  My understanding about this list was to have a
conversation about how ag can be more sustainable.  But it seems that some
people are more bent on saying that things are fine just the way they are
and that concerns aren't real, so we end up debating _if_ there's a problem
- when strong evidence shows there is - rather than _how_ we might create a
less-toxic more-sustainable future.  I certainly don't mind the examination
of facts, but it seems that some list members go beyond that, shooting down
both the concerns and the constructive solutions, stating only problems and
doubts, without offering anything constructive on their own, except some
vague notion that things are just fine the way they are.  Is that what we
want this list to be about?  Or do we want to really take on what I thought
the purpose of this list was - working towards a more sustainable ag and
future for us all....?  Well, anyway, I put my vote in for the latter...

Best regards - P. Dines