Methyl bromide use must be allowed for safe, reliable food supply
» July 22, 2004 «
The continued availability of methyl bromide as a crop protection tool is essential for farmers who produce a number of important food crops, a California Farm Bureau Federation official told Congress this week.
Under an international agreement, methyl bromide, an important agricultural fumigant used to control crop pests, is being phased out due to concerns about possible effects on the Earth's ozone layer. Nearly 200 countries including the United States have signed the United Nations' 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. "Non-critical" uses of methyl bromide will be banned in the United States and other developed countries in January 2005, and in developing countries in 2015.
In his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee, CFBF Second Vice President Paul Wenger stressed the need to address problems involving the Montreal Protocol, which he said appear to be politically driven at the expense of U.S. farmers.
"Unfortunately, the actions of some in the international community clearly illustrate that the protocol is no longer about ozone protection," said Wenger, a Modesto walnut and almond grower. "Rather, rules are being changed to suit the political agendas and advantages of other countries?agendas that have nothing to do with environmental treaties and everything to do with putting American farmers and consumers at risk."
U.S. growers seek a temporary exemption for critical uses of methyl bromide, but say the system for judging exemptions is flawed; as a result, the amount of material they are allowed to use is inadequate. "The parties to the protocol have so far not granted the United States the amount of methyl bromide we need," Wenger said. Many have questioned the legitimacy of the critical use exemption process, contending that the international process is not objective, transparent or science-based, he said.
Citing a lack of economically viable alternatives, Wenger asked the subcommittee to take action to ensure that U.S. farmers have access to the amount of methyl bromide that they need to provide consumers with high-quality, affordable products. Otherwise, he said, consumers may be forced to depend on imported products.
The Farm Bureau leader urged support for House Resolution 3403, by Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, which would "provide fairness and certainty to domestic users depending on critical uses of methyl bromide," Wenger said.
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