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Controversial pesticide suddenly pulled from market

March 21, 2012 | 10:12 am

Controversial pesticide pulled from market
A high-profile battle pitting California environmentalists and rural communities against the manufacturer of a strawberry pesticide ended abruptly Tuesday night.

Arysta LifeScience Inc., the Tokyo manufacturer of the fumigant methyl iodide, labeled as Midas, is pulling its product out of the U.S. market. Farmers are being told existing supplies and tanks should be returned to Arysta.

The company has requested a meeting Wednesday afternoon with the judge in a lawsuit against the approval of methyl iodide in California. They are expected to ask for the case to be dropped. California strawberries were the main market for Midas.

In a news release, Arysta said it was a financial decision based on market research.

Environmental groups were jubilant at the announcement.

"What this means is that it's immediate. It's now. That's real and very important," said Tracey Brieger with Californians for Pesticide Reform, a coalition of groups joined together to oppose methyl iodide and other fumigants.

California farmers are unlikely to feel an impact.


Methyl iodide was barely used. In 2011, a lone strawberry farmer in Santa Maria used it “as a small test on one portion of a remotely located field," according to the California Strawberry Commission.

Commission spokeswoman Carolyn O’Donnell said its use was limited by regulations that made it more difficult than other fumigants to apply in areas near homes and businesses.

Methyl iodide was approved in 2010 during the waning days of the Schwarzenegger administration as a replacement for methyl bromide, which was banned by international treaty.

It is listed as a carcinogen under state Proposition 65. Scientists from the Department of Pesticide Regulation had voiced concerns over the safety of the fumigant. The head of a panel of independent scientists called methyl iodide "one of the most toxic chemicals on earth."


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Photo: Arysta, the Tokyo manufacturer of the controversial fumigant methyl iodide, labeled as Midas, is pulling its product out of the U.S. market, although it was little used in strawberry fields. Credit: Steven Osman / Los Angeles Times