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Bush Administration Pushing For Methyl Bromide Exemption From Montreal Protocol
(from February 11, 2003)

The Bush administration's proposal to allow the continued use of the pesticide methyl bromide will increase the risk of cancer, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The administration requested 54 exemptions from the methyl bromide phase-out required by the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty to protect the ozone layer.

The Montreal Protocol calls for all industrialized countries to ban methyl bromide by 2005, with interim cutbacks of 70 percent in 2003. Many European nations have already banned the pesticide and alternative practices and products have been found effective for nine out of ten methyl bromide uses worldwide.

Methyl bromide is an ozone depleter 50 times stronger than now-banned CFCs. Its uses include grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, grain storage, and structural pest control, primarily in California and Florida. It has been found to cause birth defects and brain damage in laboratory animals. Air sampling has found methyl bromide levels well exceeding state safety guidelines in California nearby neighborhoods and schools and has caused thousands of poisons in California alone.

The administration requested exemptions totaling 39 percent of the baseline production level, even though the Montreal protocol allows exemptions of no more than 30 percent. Therefore, this means the U.S. request amounts to a violation of the treaty.

"This attack on the ozone layer will put more people at risk of cancer," says David Doniger, policy director of NRDC's Climate Center. "It also punishes the responsible growers who have invested time and money into adopting safer alternatives."

In 1998, the Clinton Administration and Congress approved a rollback of the methyl bromide phase out date from 2001 to 2005 for the U.S. The methyl bromide ban, scheduled for 2001 under the Clean Air Act, was delayed four more years by language by Rep. Vic Faxio (D-CA) in a last minute anti-environmental rider attached to the Fiscal Year 1999 agricultural appropriations bills.