"Methyl bromide has been widely used in California -- especially in strawberry production -- to fumigate soil prior to planting and prevent nematodes and other soil-borne pests."Caption & image credit:University of California at Davis.
California (and other) strawberry growers are pushing for permission to inject the soil fumigant methyl iodide (commonly called iodomethane) to produce truckloads of those luscious red berries sold in US markets, year-round. Methyl iodide is one of the most cost-effective soil fumigant substitutes for methyl bromide, the latter having been phased out for most agricultural applications in 2005, due to its high ozone depletion potential (ODP). This change-over is in spite of a relatively high human health hazard associated with iodomethane. Go read the NYT article for details; but, here's the money quote for those who live and work around the berries (consumers have no particular exposure - concerns are altruistic for most of us).
..said Theodore A. Slotkin, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center and a member of the scientific review committee. "When we come across a compound that is known to be neurotoxic, as well as developmentally toxic and an endocrine disruptor, it would seem prudent to err on the side of caution, demanding that the appropriate scientific testing be done on animals instead of going ahead and putting it into use, in which case the test animals will be the children of the state of California."
USEPA's risk assessment of iodomethane for this application is summarized here.
Consumer choices are few in this matter and the potential for self delusion is high.
It would be nice to think that you could eat strawberries only when they are in season where you live, as that choice would seemingly help reduce hazardous exposures to fumigants back in California or Florida, where most of the commercially sold strawberries are gown.
I have a hunch that much of the demand for strawberries is driven by instinct buying and that they are very profitable for the grocer. Our choices have little to do with production method: e.g. organic vs non-organic because, without fail, strawberries in a grocery are lit brightly, on terraced shelving, at eye level, where you enter the produce section. Organic strawberries are kept where exactly sir???
The only clear alternatives are to buy organic strawbabies in season or grow your own. Something that a grocery chain does little or nothing to enable. So unless someone can point out a flaw in my logic, I see little chance of this changing. Poison gas it is.