October 17, 2011

In September, SF Bay Area PSR President Dr. Bob Gould spoke about the health dangers of methyl iodide to approximately 200 members of the public at Hartnell College in Salinas. Methyl iodide is a pesticide that has been approved for use on strawberries, and is potentially more toxic than the pesticide it was meant to replace, methyl bromide. Dr. Gould reviewed the chemical and biological properties of methyl iodide and its potential carcinogenic effects and negative impact on childhood growth and development, as well as a variety of issues related to “pesticide drift.” He shared the findings on methyl iodide from an external scientific review committee of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, which concluded that there is little doubt regarding the significant toxicity of methyl iodide. Dr. Gould closed his talk with a discussion of need for applying the precautionary principle, by which chemicals such as methyl iodide that may cause significant harm are not approved for use until there is scientific evidence of safety.

Several other speakers gave inspiring talks at the event as well. Assemblymember Bill Monning, Chair of California State Assembly Committee on Health delivered the keynote, underscoring the mutual benefits to farmers, workers and others in the Salinas region of growing food without  harming the health of the total community. Other speakers included Jim Cochran, Farmer and President of Swanton Berry Farms (the first organic strawberry farm); and Professor Kathy Collins, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of California at Berkeley. The event was sponsored by the Office of Assemblymember Luis Alejo, Monterey Safe Strawberries, Pesticide Watch Education Fund, United Farm Workers, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council. The event was free and provided Spanish translation.