U.S. Could Endanger Ozone Layer with Push for Pesticide Use

In pushing for continued use of a controversial pesticide, the Bush administration could undermine international efforts to protect the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, a 1987 treaty ratified by the U.S. and other industrialized nations, calls for phasing out the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide by 2005, but at an international meeting on the protocol this week in Nairobi, Kenya, representatives from the U.S. will fight for an exemption that would not only allow U.S. farmers to keep using the pesticide but also to use it in larger amounts. The U.S. agricultural industry argues that methyl bromide is essential for affordable growing of strawberries and other crops, but European Union officials and others contend that there are viable alternative products. Atmospheric chemists say the ozone layer will likely take at least 50 years to heal, so this is no time to let up on protections.