A Strawberry farm near Castroville in Monterey County. (Photo by USDA.)

Last month, I wrote about the very real possibility that Monterey County — one of the biggest farm counties in California — would pass a resolution to ban the fumigant methyl iodide.

Well, on Tuesday morning, Valentine’s Day, the Moneterey County Board of Supervisors did just that. They’ll join Santa Cruz County (another big ag county) in urging California Gov. Jerry Brown to re-examine the registration and approval of this known carcinogen on farms.

Methyl iodide is being seen as a replacement for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide, which will be phased out of use in the state by 2015. And while farmers appear to be holding off on using this highly toxic chemical (only a handful of applications have been recorded in the state so far), that fact hasn’t stopped anti-pesticide advocates from pushing lawmakers to to reconsider the decision.

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The news comes only weeks after Brown appointed Brian Leahy, a former organic farmer and the former assistant director at the California Department of Conservation, to head up the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

At the time, Tracey Brieger, co-director of Californians for Pesticide Reform (a coalition of 185 member groups), said: “This is an opportunity for a new day at DPR. Previous directors have all too often caved to industry pressure and rubber-stamped pesticides instead of safeguarding health and promoting a vibrant agricultural system.”

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Now that Monterey County (a county that traditionally supports conventional agriculture above all else) has made such a strong move, the pressure is likely mounting on Leahy and Brown to re-examine the pesticide.

Methyl iodide is big news in California, but the strawberries grown here are eaten across the nation. In a press release Tuesday by the advocacy group Pesticide Watch, Carole Erickson, a local activist, elaborated. “California produces over 80 percent of the nation’s strawberries, and cities such as Salinas and Watsonville account for almost half of the state’s strawberry acreage. Monterey County is a major target for use of methyl iodide.”