The state of California’s consideration of the use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant brought attention from major media outlets as well as protests from activist groups and legislative advocates.

The Associated Press reported on July 10 that the state received 50,000 public comments on its proposed approval of the fumigant.

The state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation reportedly said it could take another month to finish reviewing the comments.

Although a June 18 New York Times article referred to methyl iodide as a new pesticide, the chemical is registered in 47 states, and it is in fact a pre-plant fumigant that is injected into the soil, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.

Because methyl iodide has been touted as an alternative to the nearly phased-out methyl bromide fumigant used by strawberry growers, California growers have been keeping an eye on the situation. It doesn’t appear, however, that approval of the fumigant will have any immediate effect on the berry industry.

“A lot of growers probably don’t have plans to use it because it hasn’t been approved,” Jewell said.

“It may affect next year’s crop. Maybe some growers will try it, but it’s not even on our radar.”

The approval process takes time and involves many steps, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville. She said the commission is waiting to hear what the state decides.

Strawberry grower Red Blossom Farms, Santa Ynez, Calif., also is monitoring the issue.

“At this time, we are carefully listening and observing the dialogue in regards to methyl iodide to enable us to make the best decision possible if the product is approved,” said Michelle Deleissegues, director of marketing for Red Blossom.

Even if methyl iodide is approved for use in the state, O’Donnell said California’s stringent regulations will likely preclude its use by many growers whose fields are located near residential areas.