U.S. Seeks Exemptions from Ban on Ozone-Damaging Pesticide

The U.S. will seek to make a large number of American farmers and industries exempt from an international ban on the highly toxic and ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide, set to take effect next year, Bush administration officials announced yesterday. (We thought they saved this kind of stuff for Fridays!) The ban is part of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty aimed at reducing the use of ozone-depleting chemicals; the treaty has yielded a 70 percent reduction in methyl bromide use in industrialized countries since 1999, when it was signed. Parties to the treaty will meet in Montreal this month to consider requests for exemptions. The U.S. request is larger than all the others combined. U.S. growers say the cheap pesticide is needed to help them compete with other countries that use low-cost labor to do weed and pest control. If granted, the request would mark the first time since the protocol was signed that a country has reversed the phaseout and increased use of the pesticide.