WATSONVILLE, Ca. (May 15, 2013) -- Farmers and consumers agree that clean soil is a critical component needed by California farmers, and today's announcement by California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) regarding potential added safety measures is important for consideration and discussion.
"California farmers have a great track record, having safely used chloropicrin for more than 50 years," said Miguel Ramos, a strawberry farmer in Watsonville. He noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently re-registered chloropicrin as safe to be used on farms nationwide after it conducted a comprehensive 8-year study of its effect on health, safety and the environment.
"One of the most important ingredients for growing healthy crops is clean soil," said Mr. Ramos. He noted that farmers in other states and countries are allowed to use chloropicrin, and California farmers "need this tool so that we're able to continue growing healthy crops right here in California competitively rather than having these crops imported, putting local farmers out of business."
"Many family farmers in California have been driven out of business in recent years due to increasing regulations," said Mr. Ramos. "We know that in the strawberry industry alone there are more than 70,000 jobs in California that could be at risk if chloropicrin can't be used under practical, health protective standards. These jobs are crucial to delivering fresh and healthy fruit to American families."
California consumers understand the need of having clean soil to grow healthy, locally-produced crops. "While California strawberries are universally-loved, I like the fact that they are locally-farmed," said Lowell Hurst, retired high school teacher. "That's one of the benefits of living in California - an abundance of locally-farmed foods. So I'm glad to hear that healthy foods like California strawberries can continue to be grown right here in state."
There are no valid studies that indicate any major health risks to consumers associated with the proper use of chloropicrin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not consider it a carcinogen. The primary affects for anyone exposed to it during rare instances of improper usage or accidents are short-term eye irritation, tears, possibly a scratchy throat or coughing. These are the very characteristics of chloropicrin that make it an excellent warning agent; it is required for use when fumigating homes and other structures.
Environmentally, chloropicrin does not have a significant ozone depletion potential because it undergoes rapid breakdown in sunlight. The breakdown products of chloropicrin in soil (carbon dioxide, nitrate, chloride) are basic nutrients not only for the plants but also for the microorganisms that inhabit crop soils.
Like most fumigants, chloropicrin is a "restricted use pesticide" so its distribution and use are highly controlled to licensed professionals who are trained in its proper and safe use. Chloropicrin is a clear liquid that is injected into the soil approximately 12-16 inches below the surface, 14 days or more before crop planting. It can also be applied through drip tubing that is buried in the soil and covered with a barrier tarp. It kills target fungi within 48 hours of application and also controls some root-destroying nematodes, soil insects and other plant-limiting pests. It is NOT applied or sprayed onto crops.
Even though the federal EPA re-registered chloropicrin in 2009 after a comprehensive 8-year study of its effect on health, safety and the environment, California state law requires CDPR to conduct its own scientific assessment and reevaluation of the safety measures required for use in the state.
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