Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One Small Step Forward for the Environment, One Giant Step Backward for Human Health

I was saddened to read last week that the state of California has decided to in favour of replacing one ozone-depleting pesticide (methyl bromide) with another (methyl iodide) on the basis that the latter is much less destructive to that invisible shield above us that keeps most UV radiation away from our delicate skin. This is an improvement, but only in terms of halting ozone depletion (which, thankfully, has been occurring to a very small degree). If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this is what you see: methyl iodide, commonly used to sterilize the soil ahead of planting on industrial strawberry farms, is so carcinogenic that it is used to induce cancer in lab testing.

Since this pesticide does not linger on the berries themselves, it poses no apparent threat to consumers, but what of the farm workers and those living in nearby communities? Are we pausing long enough to think about the people who grow our food and live close to farms? Are we stopping to examine the package of strawberries available in supermarkets in December to find out where they come from? Is it necessary for us to eat fresh fruit out of season in light of our proximity to locally-grown berries in the summer and the existence of freezers in almost every home? Most importantly, where is the social justice in letting others face such enormous health risks when we would never do the same, just to be able to access any food, no matter how exotic, at any time of year?

For more, read Tom Laskawy's and Tom Philpott's articles in Grist.

Photo credit.

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