Update Wed Feb 23: KQED’s Central Valley bureau chief Sasha Khokha attended yesterday’s assembly hearing on the approval of methyl iodide, a controversial strawberry pesticide that was approved by the state at far greater levels than an independent panel of scientists said were safe. Here’s the report:

Feb 22 post:

The State Assembly is now holding a joint oversight hearing on the controversial approval of the strawberry fumigant methyl iodide.


Last year, KQED’s Amy Standen reported on the controversy for The California Report.

As reported by Standen, the strawberry pesticide is intended to take the place of methyl bromide, which is being phased out because it harms the ozone. Scientists say methyl iodide is highly toxic. Lab studies in rats have shown the chemical causes miscarriages and cancer. Case studies of humans exposed to methyl iodide show that it can cause brain damage.

Scientists who have studied methyl iodide fear that it might cause brain damage in human fetuses.

Despite that, the Bush-era EPA approved the chemical. California, however, requires a separate process. The state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation asked its scientists to determine a safe level of exposure for farm workers, then asked a panel of external researchers to vet the process. The final limit the experts came up with was .8 parts per billion. But when the state announced its regulations, that number had swollen to 96 parts per billion, shocking the scientists who had worked on the project.

Listen to Amy’s Standen two-part report below:

Part 1

Part 2


  • Breanna Morris

    Wow, Can’t believe this was approved… guess the health of farm-workers really matters that much less than being able to buy strawberries for a cheap price.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix.  He also writes about film for KQED Arts.

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