FRESNO -- A scientific panel has raised serious concerns about the use of methyl iodide on California farmland, saying the highly potent chemical poses significant health risks to workers and the general population.
The report from the state-appointed group of experts comes as a blow to farmers and the makers of the fumigant -- the Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Corp. -- who have been fighting for more than a year to get the chemical approved in California.
At stake for farmers is the loss of a potential replacement for methyl bromide, which was phased out by the federal government in 2005 because it damages the Earth's protective ozone layer.
"The products that we have just don't do the job," said Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League.
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The federal EPA and virtually every other state has approved methyl iodide.
But the eight-member committee reviewing the chemical for use in California found that the risk of using methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, is too great, especially for workers whose protections are commonly "inappropriate, inadequate or inaccessible."
Mary-Ann Warmerdam, director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation, will review the panel's findings and her own department's research as she decides if farmers can use the chemical and if so, under what restrictions.