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Daily News Archive

Bush Wins Exemptions To Methyl Bromide Phaseout
(Beyond Pesticides, April 6, 2004)
On March 26, at a special United Nations meeting in Montreal, 114 countries agreed to grant the U.S. and ten other developed countries permission to continue damaging the ozone layer by using the pesticide methyl bromide for "critical uses" despite the availability of less harmful alternatives.

Even though the Montreal Protocol allows exemptions of no more than 30 percent, the Bush Administration won exemptions totaling 35% of its 1991 baseline level, or 8,942 metric tons, allowing the country to be in violation of the international treaty. Exemptions of 2,133 metric tons were also made for Italy; Spain, 1,059; and France, 407. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Japan, Portugal, and the U.K. were each granted exemptions of less than 300 metric tons, according to Chemical & Engineering News.

At the historic ageement to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, industrialized countries agreed to phase out all uses of methyl bromide by 2005 with interim cutbacks of 70 percent in 2003.

Yet, last November, at a meeting of the parties to the protocol, the Bush Administration sought as many as 54 exemptions that would have set the U.S. consumption at 39% of its 1991 level. (See March 22, 2004 Daily News) The highly controversial move, fought hard by environmentalists within the U.S., resulted in threatening the integrity of the entire protocol. An obvious failure, this March UN special session of the parties was arranged to try to resolve the dispute.

Klaus Töpfer, executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), was quoted by Chemical & Engineering News as saying, "The high demand for exemptions to the methyl bromide phaseout shows that governments and the private sector will have to work much harder to speed up the development of ozone-friendly replacements." Neither Chemical & Engineering News nor the UNEP director made mention of the fact that alternative practices and products have been found effective for nine out of ten methyl bromide uses worldwide. Nor did they mention that many European nations have already successfully banned the pesticide.

Methyl Bromide damages and depletes the planet's stratospheric ozone layer and is 50 times stronger than the now-banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The toxic pesticide is used on grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, grain storage, and in structural pest control, primarily in California and Florida. It has been found to cause birth defects and brain damage in laboratory animals.

TAKE ACTION: Write your congressional representatives and the Bush Administration and denounce its position on methyl bromide!