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Don't Believe Critics Of New Pesticide

The Bakersfield Californian


As an author on the patents and the person who first proposed the use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant, I am writing to address the coverage that has stemmed from the proposed registration of methyl iodide for use as a fumigant in California.

As an author on the patents and the person who first proposed the use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant, I am writing to address the coverage that has stemmed from the proposed registration of methyl iodide for use as a fumigant in California. I proposed its use because it will not destroy the ozone layer as does methyl bromide, the fumigant it replaces.

Much like other potent materials that are part of our everyday lives, methyl iodide can be used safely. This compound is the most researched and most tightly controlled fumigant yet registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has been used in the Southeast for nearly three years on more than 15,000 acres with no untoward events reported. It is used in fields where numerous crops, including peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and cut flowers, will be planted, and it controls weeds, nematodes, fungi and insects in the soil.

Let's be very clear here: Methyl iodide is injected into the soil one to two weeks before any plants are planted, and is immediately covered by a high-density tarp that prevents it from escaping into the atmosphere too quickly. This delay allows the use of less chemical than if conventional tarps were used. There is no spraying involved. And it certainly isn't applied directly to plants. In fact, methyl iodide is broken down naturally by the time plants are introduced. There is no residue whatsoever left on or in the plants.

There are several incorrect, misleading and alarmist statements about methyl iodide put forward by the Pesticide Action Network, which is leading the protest against registration of the fumigant. The Pesticide Action Network opposes all use of chemicals in a pay-for-advocacy model. It exists on the donations of well-meaning people.

The chemical is not a human carcinogen; it is a rodent carcinogen. Lois Gold and Bruce Ames, both UC Berkeley researchers, have stated "high-dose effects in rodent cancer tests ... are not relevant to low-dose human exposures."

The studies that claim to show that methyl iodide will cause late-term miscarriages were done using high-dose protocols on rabbits. This effect is not caused by methyl iodide itself, but rather excess iodide that builds up in the body as methyl iodide is broken down. Furthermore, science has proven this effect does not translate to low-dose exposures to humans.

I have safely used methyl iodide in the lab for more than 50 years. Numerous sophomore organic chemistry students have used methyl iodide for years in making another compound called the methyl Grignard reagent.

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