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Poisonous Fruits of Labor

Date: 15 March, 2006

By: Chief

Imaget is that time of year. If you take a look around the Watsonville and Salinas Valley areas of California you should see farmers tilling, plowing and furrowing their soil so to soon be ready for planting one very big cash crop — strawberries.

If you watch often enough you will also see the farm hands spraying or injecting a pre-planting fumigant into or on the soil and then covering the planting area with heavy plastic sheets. About three weeks later the actual planting of strawberries begins. A few months after that if all goes well fresh, sweet, delicious strawberries hit the market and most people, myself included, go ballistic and gobble those berries up as fast as we can lay our money on the table for them.

We are also, albeit unknowingly, poisoning ourselves.

Remember that 'fumigant' I mentioned? Well that fumigant has a name — methyl bromide. And, for your edification, methyl bromide has been banned for use under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty, effective 01 January, 2005.

Methyl bromide is a:

"[B]road spectrum pesticide that is injected into the soil before a crop is planted, which effectively sterilizes the soil, killing the vast majority of soil organisms. A colorless, odorless gas at room temperature, methyl bromide is normally applied as a liquid under pressure that vaporizes upon release at the point of application" (quoting Champon Millennium Chemicals Inc. web site).

Additionally (yes it does get worse):

"It also can cause neurological damage, but methyl bromide's tenacity demonstrates the difficulty of banishing a substance that is wildly successful at delivering what both farmers and consumers want: abundant, pest-free and affordable produce" (quoting the AP).

It is extremely toxic to humans and animals as well. The stuff does kill just about anything.

While the vast majority of methyl bromide's use is in the ground prior to crop planting:

"Eight percent of the methyl bromide market is for post harvest commodities such as grain, fruits, and vegetables. While commodities are packaged for shipment, insects could attack and destroy the food. By spraying the commodities with methyl bromide gas the commodities are then protected. Commodity spraying is also used on imported foods to protect American soil from being contaminated by outside insects, which could destroy growing crops" (quoting Champon Millennium Chemicals Inc. web site).

Kind of like the old expression — a double dose will kill you quicker.

What is utterly vile about this whole sordid affair is that the U.N.'s ban on the fumigant was not because it kills of everything in its path, which it does, it is because:

"Atmospheric scientists have concluded that use of methyl bromide contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer" (quoting Champon Millennium Chemicals Inc. web site).

According to the United Nations it is apparently 'Okay' to poison people and animals, and make the soil absolutely unusable for anything unless additional synthetic chemical fertilizers by the ton are used to temporarily revitalize a basically destroyed soil — but don't go messing with the Ozone layer (something that has yet to be proved). God what a bunch bureaucratic dirtbags.

Lovely.

So what say y'all? If this poison has been banned globally for use, why in the world are you wasting your time writing this story and our time having to read it? That is a good question and I have an even better answer. The U.S. gets an annual 'waiver' or exemption from the ban. From a recent story by the Associated Press:

"[T]he Bush administration has convinced other treaty signatories that U.S. farmers can't do without it — whether for California berries, Florida tomatoes, North Carolina Christmas trees or Michigan melons.

"The administration, at the urging of agriculture and manufacturing interests, is pushing for continued treaty exemptions at least through 2008, and officials will not commit to an ending point."

Now ain't that just beer and 'tater chips. Our own federale gooberment is being encouraged by those whose only apparent desire is the all-mighty dollar. If their greed destroys the land, kills all manner and sorts of critters — including us — in the process the farmers, packers and importers who use this poison and chemical manufacturers who produce it simply do not care. Their bank accounts are far more important than the mere lives of We the People. That really blows.

Now this should really tic you off. If you or I ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just exactly how much methyl bromide is currently in inventory the EPA will refuse to tell us. Indeed, the EPA will cite "confidential business information" (quoting AP) as the reason to deny us critical information pertaining to a known and globally banned poison. It seems pretty obvious to me that the bureaucrats occupying offices within the EPA sphere of influence have been bought and paid for by at least one if not several chemical manufacturers. Slime balls.

So the farmers who use this poison say they can't get by without it. King George the Bush and cohorts are singing the exact same tune. The question therefore becomes: is there actually or is there factually an alternative to methyl bromide?

Of course there is. There are at least two. The first is organic farming. Farming without using synthetic chemicals. The second, which may or may not be considered a synthetic chemical, is called dazitol. Dazitol is manufactured by Champon Millennium Chemicals Inc. Now according to their web site:

"Dazitol is replacing methyl bromide worldwide. Dazitol kills nematodes, fungus, microorganisms and pre-emergent weeds. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, made from Natural Chemicals found in nature, and meets the requirements of the EPA, the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, the Clean Air Act, and the EPA Office of Children Safety Protection.

"Dazitol's product cost was one-half to one-fourth the cost of methyl bromide. Application costs through a drip irrigation system are minimal, whereas application costs of methyl bromide through a shank injection system are considerable."

Okay, so it may appear that there is a potential silver bullet, if you will, a safe replacement for methyl bromide. One that is purportedly harmless to good microorganisms, critters, We the People and appears to be a lot cheaper to use. It sounds like a win-win situation all around.

To be sure the EPA has stated that:

"Dazitol is still the only EPA-approved replacement for methyl bromide preplant" (quoting Champon Millennium Chemicals Inc. research paper).

Then why, pray tell, is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) continuing to spout that there is no viable replacement for methyl bromide? Could it be that USDA research personnel are attempting to patent their own alternative? Yes, it is possible and more than likely probable according to a report released by the Methyl Bromide Alternatives Outreach organization.

It also seems reasonable that if a company does not play ball the way the USDA wants then whatever a company may create, no matter how good it is, the USDA and associated thugs will do their very best (or worst) to ensure the destruction of both the company and its products as a lesson to others on how things shall be done within the USDA bailiwick. In short, it is called strong arm tactics.

I also suspect there are inter-departmental politics at play in the federale sandbox. The EPA versus the USDA. The old 'don't you dare try to take any power from me' routine. Meanwhile our growing land continues to be destroyed and We the People continue to be poisoned.

Lastly it seems completely possible that the manufacturer of methyl bromide, the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, might be using their own political clout within the halls of Congress and federale government agencies to ensure their very survival by whatever means they have available. I would additionally submit to a candid reader that the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation just might have rather deep pockets for ... er ... political purposes. Great Lakes Chemical would not, by a long shot, be the first.

You might want to keep this in mind — poisons that get into the ground and into the water must get into the plant as well. Through the plant's root system. While those toxins may be benign to the plant those same toxins may not be benign to people.

So the next time you're chowing down on a basket full of strawberries — think about what else you maybe ingesting.

Just say no to poisons.

[Ed. note: This story has been updated.]

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