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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Pesticides Reduction
Climate Law Institute
Greenbang.com, July 14, 2009

Experiment could unleash greenhouse gas 4,780 x worse than CO2

Here’s a great idea: let’s take an insecticidal fumigant that’s also a wildly more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and release more of it into the air than we have before.

Environmental groups are arguing that’s what Dow AgroSciences (PDF) is proposing to do under a request to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agro-chemical multinational corporation is seeking an experimental use permit from the EPA to use sulfuryl fluoride as a farm-field pesticide in four states, but a host of eco-organisations are calling foul.

“Sulfuryl fluoride is 4,780 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over a 100 year time horizon, and EPA must therefore consider climate change in this decision,” the groups stated in a letter to the EPA. “Allowing this dangerous pollutant to be applied to farm fields across the country is unjustifiable and would cause significant environmental damage.”

The groups opposing Dow’s request include Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health, Defenders of Wildlife, the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Sierra Club.

According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the levels of atmospheric sulfuryl fluoride, or SO2F2, in the Northern Hemisphere have risen from about 1.08 parts per trillion in 1999 to nearly 1.53 parts per trillion in 2007. While some of the sulfuryl fluoride emitted every year appears to be taken up by natural sinks, the authors stated, “with a high global warming potential similar to CFC-11, and likely increases in its future use, continued atmospheric monitoring of SO2F2 is warranted.”

The Center for Biological Diversity claims that just 10 per cent of the amount of sulfuryl fluoride Dow is seeking to use in its experiments “would be equivalent to releasing 15.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide.”

“A car that gets 30 miles per gallon would have to be driven 23 million miles — the distance of a trip circling the world over 930 times — to cause that much global warming,” said Brian Hill, a staff scientist at the Pesticide Action Network.

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