U.S. Requests Exemptions to Ozone Pact for Chemical
March 4, 2004
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
The United States is seeking to make more American farmers
and industries exempt from an international ban on methyl
bromide, a popular pesticide that damages Earth's
protective ozone layer, Bush administration officials said
Last year, the administration sought to exclude a variety
of farmers and food producers from the ban, which takes
effect next year under a treaty outlawing substances that
harm the ozone layer. The exempt businesses would be
allowed 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide next year and
20.8 million pounds in 2006 in uses like fumigating stored
grain and treating golf-course sod and strawberry fields.
The new request, filed with United Nations treaty
administrators last weekend, would add 1.1 million pounds
to the 2005 request, to be used by producers of cut
flowers, processed meats and tobacco seedlings.
Some American growers say methyl bromide remains vital to
compete with countries where cheap laborers do weeding and
pest control. Critics of the American requests said the
exemptions could undermine the 1987 ozone treaty. Use of
methyl bromide has been cut 70 percent in industrialized
countries since 1999 under the treaty.
Parties to the pact, the Montreal Protocol, are to meet
this month in Montreal to consider requests by the United
States and other countries. The exemptions sought by the
United States are larger than all other requests combined.
Over all, the exemptions sought by the United States for
2005 and 2006 would cause a surge in American use of methyl
bromide after steady declines.
"It's the first time any country has proposed to reverse
the phaseout and increase the production of a chemical
that's supposed to be eliminated," said David Doniger, who
directs policy on atmosphere issues at the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
Administration officials defended the new requests, saying
that they were justified under the treaty's clause allowing
continuing "critical uses" of the chemical and that the
United States remained a leader in curbing the use of
Critics said methyl bromide alternatives were succeeding
globally, including flower pasteurization and indoor
tobacco growing in artificial media with no pests. Some
experts on plants and pests said the few remaining uses of
methyl bromide were essential for some farmers.