HTML _ 97-940 - Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: Methyl Bromide Control Measures
16-Oct-1997; Wayne Morrissey; 5 p.

Abstract: This report is intended to help the reader follow changes over time in regulations domestic and international - governing methyl bromide for its potential ozone-depleting effects. Methyl bromide, like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), has been implicated by scientists in contributing to stratospheric ozone depletion, which may pose health threats to living organisms due to increased exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Methyl bromide is currently used widely as a pesticide in international agricultural commerce. Production, consumption and trade of this substance is regulated internationally under the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances which Deplete the Ozone layer and subsequent amendments and, in the United States, under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, amended (1993). The U.S. Congress is concerned that domestic regulations, which require a more accelerated phase out of production and consumption of methyl bromide than international regulations, may provide an economic advantage for countries which continue to produce and use this substance after it has been phased out in the United States. Hearings have been held by Congress on behalf of the U.S. agricultural community, to consider whether U.S. regulations might be made more consistent with international regulations, and authority has been sought in existing law for special use exemptions for agriculture. With evolving science, regulations have changed over time to reflect improvement in knowledge about methyl bromide's potential ozone-depleting effects. Also, regulatory responsibilities for industrialized countries other than the United States and, more recently, developing countries have changed, but are still less stringent than domestic regulations, posing an issue for U.S. agricultural trade. Methyl bromide, an agricultural fumigant whose atmospheric decomposition products are believed to be harmful to the stratospheric ozone layer, was first listed for control under the 1992 Amendments to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances. Methyl bromide is used as a soil fumigant for treatment of plant disease and pest infestation during cultivation, and is applied as an insecticide or fungicide on grains, fruits, nuts and other organic non-foodstuffs, such as wood products and flowers, in storage facilities or transport containers prior to shipping, or after shipping at agricultural quarantine facilities. Because scientists found methyl bromide to have a potentially high ozone depletion factor, the United States identified it as a Class I ozone-depleting substance under Title VI of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (amended 1993), whereby production of it would be phased out within 7 years, at the end of the year 2000. Since 1992, control measures on methyl bromide have undergone change, both domestically and internationally, reflecting new scientific knowledge about its ozone depleting potential and the projected economic impact of phasing it out on agricultural trade.(1) There have been formal discussions and congressional hearings in the United States on creating waivers for ¨essential uses¨ of methyl bromide beyond its currently scheduled domestic phase-out date of Jan. 1, 2001, in the event that undue economic hardship occur for farmers who do not have effective alternative substances or technologies. U.S. lawmakers are also concerned about different requirements for phase out, domestically and internationally, as well as waivers granted some countries to continue to produce and use methyl bromide domestically for ¨basic needs.¨ All regulations thus far have exempted methyl bromide used for quarantine and pre-shipment treatment of agricultural commodities. [read report]

Topics: Stratospheric Ozone

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