California Assemblyman Labels United Nations “Threat to Breadbasket of the World” Republican Ray Haynes Urges Global Body to Reform Montreal Protocol

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A member of the California Legislature today lent his voice to a growing chorus urging widespread reform of rules regulating the use of a critical element of the Golden State’s agriculture industry: the pesticide Methyl Bromide.

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A member of the California Legislature today lent his voice to a growing chorus urging widespread reform of rules regulating the use of a critical element of the Golden State’s agriculture industry: the pesticide Methyl Bromide.

This was among the most contentious issues discussed at a just-concluded conference in Montreal, Canada – the 26th meeting of the Opened Ended Working Group of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which took effect in 1989.

The pact is an agreement to limit or phase out various chemicals, stating: “… measures taken to protect the ozone layer from depletion should be based on relevant scientific knowledge, taking into account technical and economic considerations.” Many observers believe a fair balance has been lacking.

“In Montreal, the United Nations demonstrated why so many people are disappointed in its performance,” said California State Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murietta). “The U.N. was formed to bring the world closer together, and has a special obligation to act in the broader interest. It should not act too aggressively to end the use of this substance without taking into full account the economic and environmental, impacts.

Haynes cited commentary by Dr. Henry Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution, describing methyl bromide this way: “One chemical on the Montreal Protocol hit-list is methyl bromide, an important pesticide used to control harmful insects, rodents, pathogens and weeds. Used by a large cross-section of the world's agriculture producers, it is an essential tool for pest control. If you have ever eaten a commercially-grown strawberry from California, chances are you have methyl bromide to thank.”

Also at the Montreal conference was data that showed what some attendees described as a “dangerously low” reserve of methyl bromide. Stakeholders in the U.S have been able to secure supplies of methyl bromide under critical uses exemptions (CUE), permitted under the original treaty. The CUE was intended to allow continued product use until technical and economically feasible alternatives are available. Up to now, CUE volumes have been continuously reduced by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Montreal Protocol. End-users believe they have shown good faith by reducing methyl bromide use by at least 70 percent over the last four years. They argue that volumes must be maintained at or slightly above 2005 levels until alternatives are available.

“The strategic reserve has shrunk by almost 50 percent from the end of 2003 through the end of 2005," said Haynes. “This has left growers and food processors perilously close being unable to produce or protect the nation’s food, should another Katrina-type hurricane hit the U.S and either disrupt production or rip out significant acreages of plastic mulch which have been fumigated. This lack of fairness in applying the terms of the Montreal Protocol, unfortunately, makes the U.N. a threat to the breadbasket of the world.”

Haynes concluded: “The Montreal Protocol has been an effective treaty. The delegates in Montreal heard Marco Gonzales, the executive secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, provide information showing that 99 percent of all ozone depleting substances have been banned.”

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Julie Paule

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