On the heels of the removal of the cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide from California’s strawberry fields, on April 24 state officials announced a new effort to help strawberry growers transition off of all methyl-iodide-like fumigant pesticides and towards safe and sustainable alternatives. Fumigants are injected into the soil to “sterilize” it before planting, and are among the most hazardous pesticides to human health used in California. The state is convening a panel of experts to help develop a plan to support strawberry growers as they transition towards safer, more sustainable technologies and techniques that protect public health and build soil health.
“With this panel, California is signaling support for innovation, including entrepreneurs who will bring new techniques to the market and the cutting-edge farmers who will use them in the fields,” said Margaret Reeves, a senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “The future of agriculture—quite literally—rests on the ability to build and maintain healthy, vibrant soils. A new plan for strawberry farming should set us on that course.”
Starting in August, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation will convene a panel of experts—including academic specialists in economics and agricultural production, farmworker safety specialists and business leaders—who will review alternative technologies to soil fumigant pesticides, as well as the economic and production-level barriers to farming without fumigants, and create a five-year plan to transition California away from most uses of fumigants in strawberry production. The effort, conceived by state officials and Assemblymember Bill Monning, has national significance since more than 85 percent of the country’s strawberries are grown in California.
Soil fumigants are applied at very high rates per acre and are readily transformed into a gas, making them difficult to control and prone to drift away from the application site. Rural families and farmworkers throughout California face some of the greatest direct threats of exposure from these chemicals. Fumigants reduce farmers’ ability to manage pests because they “sterilize” the soil, killing the live soil organic matter that forms the basis of naturally resilient farming systems. Healthy soil, for its part, reduces the risk of crop loss from biological and physical events.
“This is an exciting time. There is so much potential for positive change that will benefit both farmers and agricultural communities, and it’s encouraging that both the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the strawberry growers are embracing the idea of change,” said Susan Kegley, consulting scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “This effort will help California maintain its leadership in innovation with new farming techniques that can be used across the nation and globally.”
Last month, Brian Leahy—Director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation—signaled a new direction for strawberry growing in California when he awarded the California Strawberry Commission $500,000 to research alternatives to pesticide fumigants. “We really want to work with the industry to look at fumigants," said Leahy. "They are very intense, and we have to find all kinds of alternatives to get away from these most toxic chemicals."
Despite high fumigant pesticide use in conventional agriculture, California also leads the country in organic farming, with more than 430,000 acres in production and average annual growth of 15 percent. Farmers and entrepreneurs have developed a variety of alternatives to fumigant pesticides. Current and emerging alternatives include use of disease-resistant cultivars, solarization, steam treatments, crop rotations, use of green manures such as mustard seed meal, and anaerobic disinfestation.
The fumigant transition panel will also evaluate ways to remove structural barriers to change, including provision of crop insurance and support for small-scale testing of the new methods in the required buffer zone areas to help farmers make the transition. Access to affordable land is also an issue on the Central Coast, the California location with the highest density of strawberry fields.
“Pesticides are poisons—they should not be used as a form of insurance. Instead, we need to provide growers with safer, lower-risk ways to grow their crops,” said Tracey Brieger, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform. “With the broad scientific and public rejection of methyl iodide, California has an unprecedented opportunity to invest in farmers and technological entrepreneurs to help propel forward a new system of agriculture that will help California thrive into the future.”
The growing interest in the new panel and plan follows a multi-year battle to take one new pesticide fumigant, methyl iodide, off the market. After pressure from rural communities, farmworkers, and the scientific community, the manufacturer of methyl iodide, Arysta, pulled product and ended U.S. use last month. UCLA scientist John Froines, who led the external review of the chemical, called it “one of the most toxic chemicals on earth.” Advocates in Africa and Latin America are now using California’s scientific review to urge their governments to prohibit methyl iodide’s use.
As a result, all fumigants are under increasing scrutiny. Methyl bromide is slated for phase-out in 2015 under an international treaty agreement, and several of the other fumigants have severe restrictions on their use. Instead of focusing on safer alternatives, conventional pesticide manufacturers have attempted to market new highly toxic fumigants as replacements for methyl bromide. Rural residents across California have documented the on-the-ground harms that these pesticide fumigants pose to their communities.Last month, for example, a community outside Red Bluff, California released air monitoring results that showed high concentrations of the fumigant chloropicrin applied to strawberry fields near their homes. Chloropicrin, which was a co-ingredient in all of the methyl iodide products, is a severe respiratory irritant and a potent carcinogen.
For more information, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
More and more Americans are retrofitting their bathrooms with high-end bidets, allowing them to enjoy cleanliness and hygiene without creating as much paper waste. Not all bidets are created equal, however, and before deciding on a particular brand, it's important to do your homework. Take a look at our comprehensive Toto bidet review, and our reviews of Tushy and Omigo, to learn more about all of their options.
Toto USA<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT500B-01-Piedmont-Vertical/dp/B00084P3GO/ref=sr_1_3?crid=ZG6AGN0U9VQL&dchild=1&keywords=toto+piedmont+bidet&qid=1613591898&sprefix=toto+piedmo%2Caps%2C188&sr=8-3" target="_blank">Toto's Piedmont bidet</a> offers an elegant, classic design, and it also comes with built-in safeguards that prevent it from ever overflowing. It is available in several color options, and will look good with any contemporary bathroom design.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This is the most affordable standalone bidet in Toto's catalog. This bidet is a good option if you are remodeling your bathroom or are building a home and want to save water and paper waste from the start. Priced starting at $533, you can find it through other retailers for around $280.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT930B-01-Vertical-Cotton/dp/B0015IVUOQ/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto%2Blloyd%2Bbidet&qid=1613592001&sr=8-2&th=1" target="_blank">Lloyd bidet</a> has a much bolder, "skirted" design, but it also shares the Piedmont's flushing rim and integral overflow features, which keep you from ever experiencing spillage.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is a fancier product with a more striking appearance, and is mainly suited for a larger, more formal design. It retails for a slightly higher price point: The Lloyd model starts at $780 in total, but you can find it for $526 through other retailers.</p>
Toto USA<p>The company's flagship standalone bidet is known as the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT784B-01-Clayton-Vertical/dp/B0018L9JUC/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto+clayton+bidet&qid=1613592108&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Clayton</a>. It includes the same overflow safeguards as the other two, and of course, each of these products is backed by Toto's longstanding commitment to excellent craftsmanship.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is the most traditional in its visual style, and, with a number of colors to choose from, it will look great in almost any bathroom design. The Clayton starts at $734, but is available through other retailers for around $426.</p>
Toto USA<p>This electronic smart bidet seat fits onto your existing toilet bowl and offers a number of comfort features, including a heated seat, automatic air deodorizer, adjustable warm water, warm air dryer, self-cleaning wand, and a wireless remote control.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> We chose the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UCIOX2Q/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&aaxitk=-XjvJQOmffOcAmiCOZvtAA&hsa_cr_id=7413316040901&pd_rd_plhdr=t&pd_rd_r=0e0e7f3d-0baf-4977-85d3-663f618a76d8&pd_rd_w=Yi3yF&pd_rd_wg=LUFHB&ref_=sbx_be_s_sparkle_lsi3d_asin_1_img" target="_blank">Toto C200</a> as the overall best bidet in <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/best-bidet-toilet-seats-2650502928.html" target="_self">our review</a> of top brands. In addition to the features mentioned, its dual action oscillating and pulsating spray and pre-mist function provide a comfortable and sanitary clean.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW3046-01-Electronic-Contemporary/dp/B078GTKSXK/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15NGPC9YFANKH&dchild=1&keywords=toto+s500e&qid=1613960063&sprefix=toto+s500e%2Caps%2C171&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Toto Washlet S500e</a> bidet seat includes the features found in the C200, plus instantaneous water heating, front and rear wash functions, two-user preset memory, and the company's <a href="https://www.totousa.com/technologies/ewater" target="_blank">EWATER+ technology</a>. This system uses electrolyzed water to keep the wand and toilet bowl clean.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This high-end Toto electric bidet seat can help you reduce water and toilet paper use, and it can help reduce the need for chemical cleaning products with its EWATER+ technology.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW2014-01-Electronic-SoftClose/dp/B0165UFOGS/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=30E9Y1LAN9ZRW&dchild=1&keywords=toto+washlet+a100+elongated+bidet+toilet+seat&qid=1613589664&sprefix=toto+washlet+a100%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFBR1FMUTdJR1hXNUEmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAyNjIwOTkxUE1EWk5CQjg2QTZPJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA0NDc1MzExSk1UMk5CQzJYVUhVJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==" target="_blank">A100</a> is an entry-level Washlet bidet attachment, but still offers numerous comfort features. It includes a heated seat with temperature control, aerated warm water with a dual action spray, and an attached arm control panel.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>One of the most affordable Toto bidet options, it still lets you adjust the water temperature and pressure settings, and features rear and front cleaning functionality for a feminine wash.</p>