Pesticide Spotlight: Methyl Iodide

Here at FruitShare, we have been excited by the arrival of strawberries, since they herald the arrival of spring. We are especially happy that our strawberries are organic, because of the high levels of pesticides that are found in conventionally-grown strawberries. In fact, the USDA has found a total of 54 separate pesticides in their samples, and 14 different residues were found in one strawberry sample. Of  741 total samples, 697 samples were found to have pesticide residues. That’s a lot of pesticides.

Plus, the state of California recently approved the use of methyl iodide on strawberries as a replacement for the chemical methyl bromide (which is being phased out, as it is known to deplete ozone in the atmosphere). The approval of methyl iodide happened in spite of concern from the California Scientific Review Committee (SRC), which stated that “use of this agent would…have significant adverse impact on the public health.” Further, methyl iodide is “difficult, if not impossible to control” and is even more toxic than methyl bromide. Because methyl iodide reacts with and mutates DNA, synthetic chemists only handle this chemical under fume hoods and in specially sealed bottles or syringes. Fortunately, California Governor Brown has agreed to take a look at the issue, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering getting rid of it nationwide. If you want to make your voice heard on this issue, the EPA is accepting public comment on this petition through April 30. Make your voice heard on this issue.

Concerned about what chemicals are on your foods? The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) has compiled a detailed list of common foods and the pesticides associated with them called “What’s On My Food?”. PAN gets their data from the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) cross-referenced with toxicology data from EPA and other authoritative listings. Then, they break it down into language and graphics that are easier for the average person to understand. As stated on the PAN website, “most people do not have degrees in chemistry or toxicology. But we all we all have an interest in knowing what we’re eating.”

As an example, let’s look at another summer favorite: blueberries. Listed on the website are all of the pesticides that have been found on samples of blueberries in 2008. There are 52 distinct pesticide residues found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program. 8 of these are known or possible carcinogens, which are chemicals that cause cancer. 24 are suspected hormone disruptors, and 14 are neurotoxins. 7 are developmental or reproductive toxins, which means they are specifically hazardous to children and unborn babies. Finally, 21 are honeybee toxins. For more detailed information, check out the chart that allows you to explore further the specific chemicals, and how the residue levels compare between conventional and organic varieties. It’s no surprise that organic blueberries do not have pesticide residues on them, although a few samples did find very low traces of certain chemicals.

“Most of us are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in our bodies.” -Pesticide Action Network

But the problem goes beyond simply avoiding pesticides in your food. Pesticides are more pervasive than you may imagine, because the chemicals don’t stay where they are locally applied. Chemicals can be carried over large distances through wind, dust, soil and water. In fact, harsh chemicals are found in water sources worldwide. One of these chemicals is atrazine, which is a suspected endocrine disrupter that has been banned in Europe and yet is the most commonly-used herbicide in the United States.

“The human health impacts linked to pesticide exposure range from birth defects and childhood brain cancer in the very young, to Parkinsons’ Disease in the elderly. In between are a variety of other cancers, developmental and neurological disorders, reproductive and hormonal system disruptions, and more.” -PAN

The people who are most significantly affected by pesticide side effects are the farmers and their families. They are exposed to the highest levels of chemicals, though the surrounding areas are also strongly affected when chemical mists drift away from farms. If you’re concerned about methyl iodide on your strawberries, imagine the farmers who harvest those berries, who must handle the chemical in large, concentrated amounts. Studies are beginning to link methyl iodide and other farming chemicals to brain cancer and other health issues.

Surprised that pesticides and herbicides are linked to serious health problems like cancer and neurological disorders? Don’t be. Never forget that the very purpose of these chemicals is to kill. And they’re very good at killing pests, but the effects on human and environmental health are costly.

Why not make every day Earth Day by switching to organic with FruitShare? We’ll deliver right to your home or business, and all of our fruit is 100% organic so you know you’re avoiding the harmful chemicals and helping slowly change the way food is grown.

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