EPA approves controversial pesticide

The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of a new pesticide despite opposition from more than 50 scientists across the country, including five Nobel Prize-winning chemists.

Methyl iodide is now the planned replacement for methyl bromide that has been phased out as a fumigant because of its harmful effect on the ozone layer.

In a letter to the agency, dated September 24, the scientists said that the pesticide methyl iodide is a known carcinogen and is potentially dangerous for pregnant women, foetuses, farm workers and others living near where it is sprayed. The chemical is highly volatile and water soluble. Hence, the pesticide should not be allowed for use in agriculture, especially as fumigants.

Despite this, on October 12, EPA legalized large-scale use of methyl iodide on crops and ornamental plants. "The risk-assessment process for methyl iodide has been one of the most thorough analyses ever conducted on a new pesticide,' the agency said. "When used according to the agency's strict procedures, the chemical not only proves to be an effective pesticide, but also meets health and safety standards for registering pesticides.'