At The United Nations Environment Programme's meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol Nov. 22-26 in Prague, Czech Republic, an agreement was made on the amount of methyl bromide that will be available for U.S. growers in 2005. This decision provides California strawberry growers with a continued limited use of the fumigant for the 2005 season.

The California strawberry industry has been working to make a transition from the use of methyl bromide to alternative fumigants for over 13 years. While over one-third of the industry's acreage is being fumigated with alternatives, Rodger Wasson, president of the Commission, says more time needs to be dedicated to ensure a safe, responsible and economically viable alternative.

“Methyl bromide is still an important and safe tool for growers,” Wasson said. “Methyl bromide is a minimal contributor to the ozone problem and focusing only on methyl bromide keeps attention away from more harmful ozone depletors. Alternative fumigants are being used by a large part of the strawberry industry, but growers still need methyl bromide as part of a responsible and safe transition to these alternatives.”

Methyl bromide, a soil fumigant, is used before planting. It eliminates the need to use more herbicides and pesticides on strawberry plants later in the season. Methyl bromide is injected 12 to 18 inches beneath the soil and is never sprayed over the soil. There are no residues remaining in the soil at planting time and there are no residues on food.

Most methyl bromide in the environment comes from natural sources like oceans, and less than 3 percent of the man-made methyl bromide is attributed to agricultural uses. The efficiency of Methyl Bromide promotes high-yields that produce many strawberries, which helps stabilize an important industry that employs more than 80,000 Californians alone.

Jan. 1 Deadline

The Montreal Protocol, a United Nations treaty, bans the use of methyl bromide in developed countries beyond Jan. 1, 2005. Yet under the treaty, producers in developing countries are able to continue using methyl bromide until at least 2015. The ban was created due to concerns about methyl bromide's possible contribution to ozone depletion after other substances had already been targeted.

The Critical Use Exemption process was a provision included in the treaty at its creation to allow industries and countries with critical needs the opportunity to continue using methyl bromide after the phase-out, until suitable alternatives were available.