Methyl Iodide and Cream

No Strawberries for You 

There are few pleasures in this world sweeter than a ripe red strawberry.  The lovely strawberry is also very healthy, providing vitamin C, potassium, fiber and cancer fighting antioxidants.  California grows more strawberries than any other state, and we’re blessed to have an abundance of this wonderful berry.

California isn’t paradise, though, and so the real world intrudes on our vision of the ruby strawberry.

When you grow only one kind of plant in a field, critters that love that plant will find it because it puts off a large concentrated odor.  When you grow the same plant year after year, the critters set up residence.  Some critters are insects, but others are fungi and molds.
In California, a number of fungi and other soil dwellers, as well as nematodes and insects, have become accustomed to the growing of strawberries.  In most cases, farmers have to treat the soil, and often the fruit, to prevent such life forms from destroying the crop.

One popular product is methyl bromide, but it has a number of problems, including a strongly negative effect on the ozone layer, that band of charged particles that prevent deadly ultraviolet light from reaching the planet.  UV light is very damaging to living tissue, and causes cancer in high dosages.  It is also used to kill single celled animals to purify air and water.

Since methyl bromide is damaging to the environment, its use is being phased out.  Something has to be used, though, or there will be no strawberries.  

Actually, there will still be strawberries, since there are agricultural methods which don’t encourage such critters, such as crop rotation, growing more than one variety of strawberry at a time, turning soil to expose pathogens, using natural fertilizer rich in a variety of critters, and so on.  The strawberries grown by these methods are superior in density to large, water heavy industrial berries.  Problem is, most of us can’t afford many of those berries.  There will be berries for some, but “no berries for you”.  

If we want to continue to buy two pounds of strawberries at a time with our other grocery items, we have to tolerate some poison along with it.  Anything used to kill these critters is going to be dangerous.  

Currently, there is a move away from methyl bromide and toward methyl iodide.  The chemical essentially disrupts life in general, killing insects, fungi, field mice, and everything in the treatment area.

Some groups are complaining about the toxicity of methyl iodide, and not minor folks, either, the group includes legislators, “scientists” and public personalities including five Nobel Laureates.  They complain that, though the chemical breaks down quickly, the by-products continue to be harmful.  They say that fieldworkers, packers, neighbors and consumers will all suffer from the long-term use of the chemical.  

These groups are asking Governeighbor elect Jerry Brown to stop the use of methyl iodide, but California’s strawberry industry disagrees, complaining that California places strong restrictions on the chemical’s use, including requiring a certification for application, limiting the time of day it can be used, limiting quantities to 125 lbs per acre, and so on.

While the “say no to methyl iodide” faction has a point, they haven’t offered an alternative that would allow us to buy affordable strawberries.  Most concerns are for workers and neighbors, and fewer for consumers.

In the long run what do you, the consumer want?  

Arysta, leading manufacturer of methyl iodide. 

Want to stop methyl iodide

Strawberry council is HERE
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