No Share

Much to my surprise, I learned this week that we would not be getting our regularly scheduled share. The reason? The neighbor’s fields are being fumigated with methyl bromide, and our farmers do not feel comfortable with the potential risk of exposure.

I’ve written passionately about methyl bromide on this blog before. But it bears repeating – these are very dangerous chemicals that farmers inject into the soil to sterilize it in order to grow just a handful of tender crops, especially strawberries. And no amount of caution, or plastic sheeting, or well-intentioned farm work is adequate to prevent exposure to the gas.  Every time we have seen a field being treated, we see part of the protective plastic meant to keep the gas in the soil just flapping in the wind.

It’s tempting to think of the farmers who use methyl bromide as greedy and evil and menacing to my organic farmers. Like they’re standing at the edge of the property taunting my farmers with “Hey, you’re welcome for the no nematodes. And the poisoned water. And the CANCER.”

But realistically? They’re probably just growing strawberries the only way it really works to do so in large scale farming. Chances are, if they could get away with not fumigating their fields, and saving some scratch, they would.

Which means that the only way to combat methyl bromide is to kill the market that makes it profitable. So, no matter how badly you want to make Giada’s Strawberry Mascarpone cupcakes, it is your duty to only do so when strawberries are actually in season where you live. Because in just a few years, methyl bromide is being phased out and its nasty and even more dangerous relative methyl iodide is moving in. And by then, I will probably have gotten so frustrated that this blog will turn into a full-time rant about the complex dangers of industrial agriculture. Help me prevent that, will you?

For those of you who need a visual translation of all those words above, I made this.

It demonstrates two things:

1) Strawberries are truly dangerous

2) I suck at photoshop (also art)

I suggest that you print this page, cut out the strawberry, and tape it to your jacket the next time you are headed out to the Farmer’s Market. When people ask you about it, you can use it as an introduction to have a frank conversation about the complex world of soil sterilization and pollutants (which you care about so much that you were willing to skip the need for an actual pin or something and just tape your beliefs directly to your clothes). Pretty much all the detail you need is linked above.

(If any of you actually do this, I will need to know about it!)

About christianathomas

I'm a working mother of two trying to make eating well fit into our hectic lives. I also used to own a completely chaotic bakery. Follow me for tips and tricks on how to get more whole foods into your diet.
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3 Responses to No Share

  1. Robert Dolezal says:

    Regret that you feel that soil sterilization is all negative–bet the children and other family members of those folks that recently died of salmonella from eating fruit and produce wish that the farmers had sterilized their soil of that deadly soil-borne pest before they planted. Fact is, some very nasty bacteria, viruses, and fungi live in soil we use to grow our food. Why wouldn’t you protect those you feed by making sure none is laying in wait for newly planted crops?

    • Hi Robert – You bring up a good point. A point that I see you have made on comment boards of other blogs discussing this topic. While I am pro food safety advancements generally (no raw milk in my house), I’m afraid that I do not see the connection between field sterilization and salmonella specifically? Salmonella can be transmitted on many types of raw foods, and can be transmitted to crops by animals. Recently cilantro and green onions have been known carriers. So unless you are advocating full methyl bromide application to all lands for all crops, I fail to understand how it is a viable solution to the salmonella problem.

      Methyl bromide is a known neuro-toxin, with far-reaching negative environmental effects. My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones to salmonella, and also to those whose health has been compromised through exposure to pesticides.

      • Robert Dolezal says:

        Thank you for your reply. Open discussion is always positive. Salmonella is a long-persisting organism that enters the soil primarily from the scat droppings of animals, either domestic or wildlife. It lives either in an active or an inactive state as long as it has sufficient water and organic matter upon which to feed. It can enter our food chain in three primary ways: it can be deposited on produce and fruit from feces, it can be splashed up onto the growing plants with irrigation and rain, and it can be blown onto them as it is carried on dust particles. I certainly do not advocate full methyl bromide application to all lands for all crops, nor is that ever the pattern of use in agriculture.

        Methyl bromide is being phased out by international treaty (“the Montreal Accord”), and only a tiny fraction of the amount previously used in agriculture is now available for application under a tightly regulated program called critical use exemption. By 2013, it will be virtually unavailable for any use whatsoever.

        Finally, you may find it surprising to know that in decades of produce and fruit testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration–numbering hundreds of thousands of lots tested across nearly every crop sold as food in the world–there has never been a single case of a detectable residue of methyl bromide, methyl iodide, or any other soil fumigant found in even one lot of produce or fruit. These compounds are safe for consumers, safe for farm workers, safe for their communities, and safe for the environment when they are handled and applied in strict accordance with their label directions. (To do otherwise is a criminal act punishable by law.)

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