Recently, it was discovered that certified organic strawberries are not really organic. This fruits is sold 50-100% more than other berries so, when their life-cycle starts, organic strawberries are sprayed with toxic chemicals like methyl bromide.
This chemical is used for soil sterilization before planting the strawberries, not on the fruit directly. Since this fumigant is killing almost anything it touches, hybrid seeds are created which can live only in sterile soil.
As Albert Howard stated in “The Soil and Health: from 1947: “The soil is full of living organisms. It`s very important to conceive of it as something full of life, not as a dead mass.”
“During the 10,000-year history, farmers had success or loss depending on the ability to grow life in the soil. Healthy soil contains earthworm and microorganisms which metabolize nutrients, for the crops to use. Also, the turn vegetable and animals waste to humus, maintaining a thin topsoil layer on which depends all terrestrial life.
In modern agriculture, soil is not a habitat, but simply a medium, it is here only to transfer synthetic nutrients from factory lines to crops. This way, all life form is innocuous at best, but a threat at worst. When the same crop is being planted in a vast field, year after year, the pests in the soil accumulate, waiting to strike.”
All strawberries, the conventional or the organic ones, are treated with toxic fumigants and other pesticides. Strawberries are often a subject of pests, and it takes lots of chemicals to protect them.
America is the largest producer of strawberries in the world. 75% of the fresh and processed strawberries for export are grown in California, and 90% of the fresh grown strawberries in the U.S. Still, there is not a single organic nursery plant.
In order to grow strawberries organically, it required rotating them with other suitable cover crops, like broccoli for example, which is a natural fungicide and it can protect the strawberries.
This method will prevent pathogens from settling in the soil and multiplying.
“Fungi attack mainly during the summer, they survive the winter as soil spores, and attack again the next season. If you plant the same field with the same crops for many years, you allow pathogens` accumulation.”
Part of a U.S. agreement to the Montreal Protocol from 2010
The commercial use of methyl bromide is banned, except when it comes to fumigation of strawberry fields and a few other agricultures. This fumigant is linked with increased risk of prostate cancer in farmers.
To protect the strawberries from pests, more than 9.5 million pounds of pesticides are used, of which 3 million pounds in methyl bromide. It`s replacement, Methyl Iodide, is nothing better.
Restricted use of Methyl Iodide was approved for California by the FDA in 2010. But scientists, some of them Nobel laureates, are pointing out its negative effects and impact on our health and the environment. In order to change things, more than 50 scientists, including 5 Nobel laureates, wrote a joint letter for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to stop them from allowing the use of methyl iodide.
“As chemists and physicians who know the negative effects of this chemical… we are asking you to do everything in your power to prevent this harmful chemical from being registered for use.”
As explained by Ted Schettler, a science director at Science and Environmental Health Network: “We all agree that methyl iodide is very toxic and dangerous. It`s very reactive, meaning it can interact with living tissue, causing damages to cell structures, chromosomes and DNA. The consequences are negative health effects like cancer and damaged tissue. Animal studies have shown that this chemical can kill the fetuses of animals in development when inhaled; and it took only small doses to kill the animals.”
Jim Cochran is a farmer who grows real organic strawberries for over 30 years, on his 75 acre farm in Davenport, without using any pesticides. He is the first farmer in California to grow organic strawberries. Now, the problem is that he buys the starter plants from a nursery which is using toxic fumigants. Jim says that this is the gray area in the rule.
The Federal and the state organic regulations allow organic farmers to buy starter plants which are not organic, it there is no other option, and their strawberries will still be certified as organic.
The NY Times states the “California does not have any organic berry nursery, just nurseries which grew their plants using fumigants.”
Cochran says that multi-crop organic farm is much more complex because it needs more management. The organic methods and rotation of crops is pretty expensive, and the final products are lower. He adds: “It`s not easy. We Are up against farmers who use chemicals, producing strawberries which are sold for 2.50 for a basket, and they still have profit. We try to grow organic from the very beginning, but it will take some time for that.”
Workable option for organic strawberries- Grow your own strawberries
We won`t recommend using seeds from fruits bought in the store, for more than obvious reasons. Try to find and buy organic seeds.
A very popular variety of strawberries is everbearing, which gives fruits during the whole season. Seed the berries in spring, and you will have ready strawberries in the summer, until early fall.
If you don`t have enough space, and the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, use a garden tower. Keep it in a sunny space and use loamy soil, which drains well but retains appropriate amount of moisture.