Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mill Valley Beerworks - open since last week.

via tweetie

Posted via web from Doug's posterous

This doesn't sound good to me: SFGate-State poised to OK supertoxic pesticide

Farmers planting strawberries and other crops in California will soon have to contend with cancer-causing poison instead of bugs, worms and fungus if regulators get their wish.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed registering methyl iodide as a pesticide in California to the dismay of scientists and environmental groups, who say it is so toxic that even chemists are reluctant to handle it.

The chemical will become legal for growers to use after a 60-day comment period ending June 29 unless there is some kind of public outcry.

"This is one of the most egregious pesticides out there," said Sarah Aird, the state field organizer for Californians for Pesticide Reform, a coalition of watchdog groups opposed to the use of potentially harmful chemicals. "It is really, really toxic. It is actually used in the laboratory to induce cancer cells."

Methyl iodide was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 for use as a fumigant over the protests of more than two dozen California legislators and 54 scientists, including five Nobel laureates, who signed a letter opposing registration of the chemical.

Bush-era decision

It was approved as a replacement for methyl bromide, which experts wanted phased out because its fumes waft into the atmosphere and damage the ozone layer.

Appeals have recently been made to the Obama administration to overturn the Bush-era decision.

Methyl iodide is now licensed for use in 47 states, but it is expensive and used only sparingly in Florida and the Carolinas, mostly on strawberries and occasionally on tomatoes and peppers. Eleven states have used it at least once, according to researchers. No problems have been documented, but very few studies have been conducted, Aird and others said.

California is considered a key battleground in the fight against methyl iodide because agriculture is a major part of the economy. The substance, produced by Arysta LifeScience Corp., is used primarily to prepare strawberry fields for planting because that fruit is particularly susceptible to soil-borne pests.

The stuff is normally mixed into the dirt and covered with tarps. It kills weed seeds, insects, microscopic worms, bacteria and fungal diseases that infect plant roots.

"Fumigants, including methyl iodide, sterilize soil prior to planting," said Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the Department of Pesticide Regulation. "It is injected into soil. It is not applied onto plants or fruit."

Brooks said the department is aware that methyl iodide is toxic, but management concluded that it could be used safely as long as protective measures were in place. If it gets registered, she said, anyone who uses the chemical will have to set up buffer zones, limit application rates and treat only a limited amount of acreage at a time. She said California's exposure limits are twice as strict as EPA's.

Flirting with disaster

Susan Kegley, a consulting scientist for Pesticide Action Network, a nonprofit public interest group in San Francisco, said approving methyl iodide would be a flirtation with disaster no matter how many safeguards are in place.

"This stuff just kills everything," said Kegley, a chemist, who pointed out that even low doses have caused neurological damage and fetal death in laboratory animals. "It is a known carcinogen."

Methyl iodide has been linked to thyroid disease, including cancerous tumors that can also affect the lungs and brain, she said. If tarps typically used to cover the treated soil were to blow off, she said, the substance could waft into the air.

"We are likely to see a greater incidence of thyroid disease with use of this chemical," said Kegley, who wears double gloves and uses syringes, a fume hood and ventilation devices whenever she handles the chemical in the lab. "The only good thing about methyl iodide is that it doesn't deplete the ozone layer."

What's really baffling, Kegley said, is that the state's own scientists concluded that the chemical posed a potential risk to public health. The department then appointed an outside review panel, which essentially came out with the same results.

Reviewers' assessment

Brooks said the department incorporated many of the review panel's suggestions in the final risk assessment.

"However, the members are experts in assessing pesticide risks, not in regulatory risk management that leads to decisions on registration," Brooks wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. "Panel members were not familiar with the many options and measures that can be put into place by risk managers to avoid unsafe exposure levels."

Pesticide opponents believe Arysta lobbyists put pressure on legislators and the regulatory agency to approve the pesticide.

"This is one of these chemicals that chemists give great respect to," Kegley said. "Allowing releases into the soil by farmers and others without training in safe handling techniques is ludicrous."

E-mail Peter Fimrite at

This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Credit @jonbonne for pointing this out.

There's got to be a better, safer way to manage pests than a chemical that kills everything in its reach.

Posted via web from Doug's posterous

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Being alert for terrorists doesn't mean being alert for Muslims

I am disappointed to see another example of a person being judged by appearance. Although there is no evidence that the individual's placement on the no-fly list was based on his looks, the MSNBC report on the incident quotes a Mexican official describing the suspect as "Muslim looking." 

That is little different from the highly offensive comment that a person "looks Jewish."

(A later report indicates that the man was arrested because of an outstanding warrant, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Clearly there is more to this story, since an outstanding warrant is not usually a reason to land a flight early - a very costly action.)

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a friend who had no idea that "black people could be Jewish." As I explained to her, not only is it possible, but she's met at least one of my friends who is both African-American and proudly Jewish. I think I may have gone a step too far in this conversation by further explaining that there's a very real possibility that Moses was black, and there is convincing evidence that we are all descendants of one African woman (we'll call her Eve.) DNA analysis is an amazing tool to learn about our origins.

The truth is that we must use every means possible to identify possible terrorists before they kill innocent people. And it is true that the United States has many enemies in the Muslim world - for many reasons new and old. 

However, the Muslim faith is a global faith, with many good, peaceful people practicing it and believing in its tenets. Only a small minority subscribe to the violent jihadism of the September 11th hijackers and other militants. The fact is that many of the militant Muslims are not Arab at all. 

Let's not confuse being alert with being prejudiced. If we do, we will continue to focus on the wrong people.

Posted via email from Doug's posterous