Pesticide Watch Education Fund and Students for Sustainable Agriculture (SSA) are teaming up to inform UC Davis students about the Department of Pesticide Regulation’s intent to register the potentially dangerous methyl iodide as a pesticide.
The two organizations will hold an event Tuesday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on the east Quad that will educate attendees about the dangers of methyl iodide. Students who attend will have the opportunity to pot their own plants and write a letter to representatives in state government to raise awareness for the issue.
Paul Towers, director of Pesticide Watch, said the event will raise awareness of the toxic pesticides developed and supported by University of California-affiliated researchers.
“The extensive use of hazardous pesticides in California results in far too many dollars spent on health care and environmental clean up, especially when safer alternatives are already used across the state and around the world,” he said in an e-mail interview.
Jannette Ramirez, a senior environmental policy and planning analysis major and Pesticide Watch student and campus organizer for UC Davis, said that preventing the regulation of methyl iodide, which would be used primarily on strawberries, is crucial because studies have shown that exposure can lead to brain damage.
“The Department of Pesticide is recommending an exposure that is 120 times what is recommended by researchers of the chemical,” she said. “The counter argument is that these studies have been done on rats and it wouldn’t have the same effect on humans, but there isn’t substantial information to prove this.”
Towers further stressed the importance of the issue by saying that California is at a crossroads with respect to farming and agriculture, and that incoming governor Jerry Brown has an opportunity to strengthen the economy by investing in greener pest management technologies.
“[Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s] administration left a mess for Gov. Brown to clean up,” he said. “He should act decisively to prevent the use of cancer-causing methyl iodide in California as the first step toward securing a healthy future for children, farmers and farm workers.”
Towers also said that promoting organic and sustainable agriculture would strengthen our state’s economy over the long-term.
“Nationally, organic sales in 2009 were almost $25 billion,” he said. “With an 8 percent growth in the overall number and acreage of certified organic operations in California in 2009 – growth rates that would be envied by other sectors of the economy – California is perfectly poised to take advantage of this growing market.”
Michael Strom, a sophomore hydrology major and SSA president, said there is also a need to reform the industrial agriculture system that dominates the country.
“The current system operates on a massive scale, requiring synthetic inputs like fertilizer and pesticides,” he said. “On a long-term scale it is unsustainable. We want to promote a system that is short-term and long-term sustainable.”
The issue is not only important, but also urgent, Strom said. Methyl iodide might be passed as a pesticide in the next month.
Strom said Tuesday’s event is a great place to start sending a message to the government about current agriculture sustainability issues.
“We originally discussed protests as a way to show our feelings about the issue but we’ve moved away from that because protests can turn students away from supporting a cause,” he said. “This [event] is a great way to both reach out to people and engage them in a positive manner.”
VICTOR BEIGELMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.