Driscoll’s Organic Strawberries Make a Big Move Forward

Did you know that most organic strawberry plants don’t start out organic? That’s changing, starting with the country’s biggest strawberry producer.

There was some good news for organic standards this week: Driscoll’s – the number one strawberry producer in the U.S. has pledged to stop using chemical fumigants on seedlings. Before this announcement, Driscoll’s, like most large-scale strawberry growers, used chemical fumigants to condition soil when they planted their strawberry seedlings.

Fumigants are basically a gaseous form of pesticides, and farm workers apply them directly to the soil to protect delicate strawberry seedlings from pests.

What’s the big deal about chemical fumigants? Not all chemicals are bad, but many of the ones strawberry growers were using are definitely toxic. Methyl bromide and 1,3 D are both commonly used to fumigate soil. While advocates of this method say that the chemicals don’t leave a residue on our strawberries, there is no denying that they are very toxic to the workers who apply them.

Even short-term exposure to methyl bromide, for example can have lasting health effects for workers. Lung and neurological damage are both associated with exposure to this chemical fumigant, causing symptoms from headaches and dizziness to paralysis and convulsions depending on the amount and duration of exposure. This stuff is no joke.

Until recently, growers just did not have access to organic strawberry seedlings, which is why there is an exception built into organic standards. When there’s no other option, organic growers can use non-organic seedlings. Driscoll’s is growing its own seedlings now, using only organic practices. This announcement from Driscoll’s could change the entire organic strawberry industry, since they’re such a large operation.

Getting rid of chemical fumigants in organic strawberry fields is definitely a win for organic standards and for worker health. Pass the berries, please!

Author’s note: A spokesperson from Sakuma Farms reached out and disputed many of the claims from The Organic Consumers Association, an original source used for this article. Since we cannot verify either claim, we’ve removed it from the post. For more information on the labor disputes, see The Seattle Globalist interview with Steve Sakuma and this Seattle Times article.

Image Credit: Driscoll’s Strawberries via photopin (license).

67 comments

Anna R
Alice R5 months ago

Thank you

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sharyn w.
sharyn w3 years ago

If it's toxic to the workers, it's toxic to the strawberry, that means it's toxic to the humans who consume the strawberry. Just because the fumigate doesn't leave a residue, doesn't mean it's not in the strawberry and or parts of the strawberry. Particularly the DNA of the strawberry.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Michelle A.
Michelle a3 years ago

Thanks!

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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Hent catalina - maria

thanks

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

noted

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

THANKS

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Sara Sezun
Sara S3 years ago

Why not simply promote other berries, such as mulberries?

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