January 3, 1995
California Governor Moves to Stop Scheduled Ban of Methyl
On December 29, 1995, California Governor Pete Wilson called
for a special session of the state legislature to extend use
of methyl bromide, an extremely hazardous pesticide that
poisons farmworkers and depletes the ozone layer. The special
session of the state legislature began on January 3 for the
sole purpose of overturning the scheduled March 1996
statewide ban on methyl bromide.
The registrations of both methyl bromide and
pentachlorophenol will be suspended in California in March
because the manufacturers of these pesticides have not
submitted health studies required under the 1984 Birth
Defects Prevention Act (SB 950). The Act requires that all
pesticide active ingredients that were approved before 1984
for use in California must be put through the same health
effects screening required for those registered after that
time -- that is, they must be evaluated for the potential to
cause cancer, birth defects and other chronic effects.
Twelve years after the State requested the health and safety
data, agribusiness interests continue to seek extensions for
methyl bromide. Methyl bromide producers missed the first
reporting deadline in 1991, and are now aggressively lobbying
Governor Wilson and the California legislature for another
extension in order to continue use of the pesticide.
Thirty five million pounds of methyl bromide are used every
year in the U.S. Approximately 25% of this amount is used in
California, one of the largest methyl bromide-using regions
in the world. The largest single use in California, and one
of the largest single crop users worldwide, is for fumigation
of strawberry fields prior to planting. California strawberry
growers use nearly 350 pounds per acre and account for nearly
40% of the stateUs total use. Other large users of methyl
bromide in California include grapes, almonds and ornamental
and nursery plants. Methyl bromide is used to control pests
in soil, on post-harvest commodities and in buildings and
Methyl bromide is classified by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency as a Category I acute toxin, and is known
to cause acute and chronic health effects. Those who come in
contact with it, including farmworkers, pesticide applicators
and people living or working where it is used, can suffer
poisonings, neurological damage and reproductive harm.
Methyl bromide is also a powerful ozone depleter. A United
Nations scientific panel estimated that methyl bromide is
responsible for 5-10% of worldwide ozone depletion. Ozone
depletion is linked to rising rates of skin cancer, eye
cataracts and damage to key ecosystems.
In 1995, the U.N. Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee
concluded that alternatives exist, or are at an advanced
stage of development, for more than 90% of methyl bromide
use. Alternatives are already used by many California farmers
and pest control companies. In 1992, alternatives to methyl
bromide were used on 59% of CaliforniaUs wine grape acres, by
well-known vineyards such as Frey, Fetzer and Gallo.
What you can do:
1. URGENT! If you are a California resident, write or call
your state Assembly Member and Senator, urging them to uphold
the March suspension on methyl bromide. Time is crucial -- in
order to make an impact on this monthUs special session,
please phone or fax your Assemblyman and Senator immediately.
Call the Capitol Chief Clerk at (916) 445-3614 for the names,
phone and fax numbers of your representatives.
2. Please mail or fax copies of your letters to:
Governor Pete Wilson, GovernorUs Office, State Capitol, First
Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814; phone (916) 445-2841; fax (916)
Senator Bill Lockyer, President of the Senate, 205 State
Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814; phone (916) 445-6671; fax
Assembly Member Brian Setencich, Speaker of the Assembly, 219
State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814; phone (916) 445-7558;
fax (916) 323-1097.
PAN North America, so we can use your letter in our campaign
against methyl bromide.
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