Sign-carrying demonstrators want the Fresno County Ag Commissioner to ban the use of methyl iodide. They say some scientists claim the pesticide can cause cancer.
Paul Towers said, "The scientific community has said this chemical is too toxic for use in our state."
But the state approved the use of methyl iodide in December. Two weeks ago a farm in Sanger was the first to use the fumigant.
Fresno County Deputy Ag Commissioner Les Wright says there was no legal reason to deny the farmer's permit. "We are allowed to put conditions on the use of it but cannot ban it. We cannot supersede state law."
Towers said, "We believe the state decision makers as well as the county Ag Commissioner have caved to corporate pressure."
Methyl iodide is pumped directly into the soil to kill pests and weed seeds.
Wright said, "In this case it's 12-15 inches deep and then immediately a tarp is rolled over the top of it to contain the soil."
Protestors say they are now considering a lawsuit against the state department of pesticide regulation to ban the fumigant.