So, what do you think we really know about pesticide use in California?
I love strawberries, and since learning back in 2003 that they are high in pesticides I will only buy organic strawberries. If I am at a party, restaurant, or friend’s house, and they are offering strawberries I will avoid them unless I know they are organic. I know I am being a bit of a snob, but it is my health that we are talking about. I never knew that California was a big grower of strawberries, nor did I know about the give-and-give relationship that is currently going on with many of the chemical companies that produce the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are used widely in the growing of strawberries. My eyes were opened by the article California’s strawberry industry is hooked on dangerous pesticides, written by Bernice Yeung, Kendall Taggart, and Andrew Donohue.
My husband and I have a strawberry plant that we celebrate, and savor, each time it produces a strawberry; we are lucky if we get 10 to 15 strawberries a year from it. We don't put anything on it, or in the soil other than water. Occasionally I will run my hands through the leaves, and talk to it. Thus, I hear the strawberry growers concerns about needing to grow plentiful amounts of strawberries, but I also worry about all of the chemicals that are being used in growing theses as well as many other foods. The article talks about loopholes that have been extended “opening the door to 12 years of nearly unfettered 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D) access as its use spread[s] to populated areas near schools, homes and businesses.” 1,3-D is a byproduct of plastic manufacturing, and puts us at a higher risk of cancer when we are exposed to this chemical for example.
An international treaty, the Montreal Protocol, banned the popular pesticide Methyl Bromide as a result of its effects of depleting the ozone layer. However, California strawberry growers continue to use Methyl Bromide, a dangerous pesticide, to make sure that year round we can get affordably priced fruits. The farmers continue to stave off the deadline of stopping use of methyl bromide by warning of financial ruin. This tactic, of course, allows them to keep using Methyl Bromide. Currently California farmers are using about 90% of all the methyl bromide in the developed world.
The article goes on to describe more about these chemicals, where they came from, and how they are finding high levels of these chemicals in two prime strawberry-growing counties - Ventura, and Monterey. The article also points out how schools in the mentioned counties have shown high levels of the chemicals in the air.
As consumers eat more strawberries than in earlier years, what are the options that farmers have? Unfortunately, the model that the farmers have been working with continues to push the boundaries on safety, health, and long term sustainability for the planet as a whole.
I encourage you to read the entire article then think about how our foods are grown, and how their growing affects the local people and the globe as a wphole. Also ask yourself, how can one make changes by using their wallet, voices, and/or collective knowledge?
One last surprising statement from the article was, “even though strawberries take up less than 1 percent of the total farmland in California, they account for at least 8 percent of pesticides used in the state.” I know I am going to enjoy my homegrown strawberries more after this article, when they’re available, and always make sure that I only buy the organic strawberries with in normal strawberry growing season.