U.S. farmers ignore international treaty on methyl bromide


Methyl bromide, a pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide used primarily in the growing of strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers, has been found to rapidly deplete the ozone layer, and is toxic to humans and animals. Because of the harm done by methyl bromide, the Montreal Protocol Treaty–signed by the United States–to phase out its use, except in the most extreme cases, by 2005. But here it is, almost 2006, and methyl bromide use in the United States is still going strong. In fact, the Bush administration plans to protect its use at least through 2008, and will not commit to a termination date.

Growers say that substitute chemicals are not as effective, and organic methods are too expensive. In California, there have been attempts to regulate the use of methyl bromide, but these attempts do not satisfy families who live near the toxic fields. Two farmworkers reported that when they went to remove the plastic sheeting from fumigated fields, there were dead dogs, deer, and birds lying about nearby. One neighborhood in southern California sued a strawberry grower because of a flu-like illness whose onset coincided with the spraying of the fields.

The so-called Environmental Protection Agency refuses to disclose the size of the U.S.’s methly bromide inventory, but it is estimated to be 11,000 tons.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.