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If we know that Methyl Bromide (pesticide used by strawberry farmers that is hazardous to earths ozone supplies) is poisonous to the ozone, then why do we use it?
Question Date: 1998-10-15
Answer 1:

I am not a chemist or Ecologist but I can give you a little bit of information on why I think farmers use methyl bromide. Farmers have used this chemical for many years long before it was known to interact with ozone. Because they are used to using it and much of their equipment is designed around its use they are hesitant to switch to another unproved chemical. Methyl bromide is very poisonous but presently it is the most efficient cheap chemical available to the farmer to sterilize the ground before planting. The fact that it has been found to be detrimental to ozone is not much of a concern to the farmer since it does not directly affect him. The farmer is hoping that science will find a way to mitigate the impact of methyl bromide on ozone and allow him to continue to use it. I think the farmer will continue to use the chemical until it is banned or a cheaper efficient one is produced for general use. So in summary methyl bromide is readily available, affordable and very efficient.

My question to you is...What could you do, as a concerned person, to help save the environment, and re-educate the farmers?

Answer 2:

You have asked a great question!It is a question that everyone should ask. I don't know the specific benefits or harms of the pesticide called Methyl Bromide, but I can tell you that it is used because (1) it is an effective pesticide and (2) it is inexpensive. This kind of trade-off occurs all the time in decisions that we all make everyday about how to live our lives. Have you heard of Freon? It was recently banned in the US (and other countries) because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. It was used for so many years as a refrigerant - the coolant used in refrigerators and air conditioners - because it had such great thermal properties and was relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
An even more dramatic example is the car! Automobiles produce lots of different pollutants, but practically everyone drives them. These are decisions that we make everyday: Do I have enough time to ride my bicycle instead? Should I be lazy and drive?
Anyway, let me get back to strawberries. You can buy organically grown strawberries which are grown without pesticides. And if everyone did this then Methyl Bromide would not be used at all. BUT.... organic strawberries are more expensive because of lower yields. (That means a lot of strawberries are eaten by insects in a given crop). So if we force everyone to stop using Methyl Bromide then strawberries might be too expensive for poorer people to buy them at all. This is the dilemma for writing laws regulating pesticides. But each one of us can make decisions through our own spending habits which can positively affect the environment. I hope this answers your question. I'm sorry I don't know specfic facts about Methyl Bromide.

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