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From December 23, 2005                                                                                                           

Gutting the Ban on Methyl Bromide – By Jim Hightower
(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2005) It's time for today's riddle! This one involves a particularly nasty pesticide called methyl bromide. How nasty is it? So nasty that, as of January 2005, its use was banned by an international treaty. And – get this – it's so nasty that even the Bushites back the ban! Yet – here comes the riddle – U.S. agribusiness giants are still pumping more than 10,000 tons of this nasty into our croplands and air each year. Can you figure it out? Bingo, if you said "politics."

Methyl bromide is a cheap way for Big Agribusiness (especially in California) to wipe out pests and weeds on such field crops as strawberries and tomatoes. Never mind that its "cheapness" comes at a hefty price to others– this toxic gas also causes convulsions, comas, neurological damage, and other debilitating problems (including death) among farm workers who inhale it. The fumigant also disperses into the atmosphere and depletes earth's protective ozone layer. Without that layer, we all fry.

The Bushites have played a cynical game of politics that lets them seem to support the treaty... yet ignore it. Before signing the treaty, the U.S. stuck in a loophole that lets a country give exemptions to the ban when necessary to prevent "market disruptions." The Bushites have tossed out these exemptions like Mardi Gras candy, allowing this killer chemical to be used on everything from Christmas trees to golf course sod.

Thus, they please the chemical makers and agribusiness interests, while publicly proclaiming that it is their "fervent desire and goal" to eliminate the chemical. As a result of these exemptions, this years tonnage of methyl bromide use in the U.S. will exceed that of two years ago – prior to the "ban."

This is Jim Hightower saying... Even when the Bushites back an international treaty... they gut it. To help close this political loophole, call the Natural Resources Defense Council: 212-727-2700. For more information, contact Beyond Pesticides or check out these previous Daily News: Suit Filed Challenging EPA’s Approval of Ozone-Depleting Chemical and Leavitt Signs Sharp Increase in Unhealthy Pesticide. Read more at www.jimhightower.com.