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It’s still only February, but California’s strawberries are already blushing as if it were mid-summer. As I carried three pints of the radiant morsels home from the farmers’ market yesterday — on my bike, wearing a T-shirt and sunglasses, I should add — I smiled and forgave SoCal all its sins. This is what living on the West Coast is all about, I thought.

But as much as I try to prolong them, those moments of blissful consumption just never last. Although my berries were grown organically by local farmers I know, I couldn’t help considering the broader socioeconomic factors that keep our state’s $2.1 billion strawberry tractor tilling year-round. In particular, I thought back to last December, when the California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the use of a cancer-causing fumigant known as methyl iodide.

While the chemical poses no direct threat to consumers, the DPR’s decision floored scientists and activists alike due to the serious health impacts that it could have on farm workers across the state. Samuel Fromartz summed up the issue well:

“I wonder if the state, or even the EPA, would have thought differently about the pesticide if there was a consumer risk. Farm workers and farm communities tend to be abstract and distant — we don’t know who these people are. Often, because they are immigrants, they remain silent.”

Even at the farmers’ market where I work, over half the strawberries for sale this weekend were conventionally grown, meaning that there is a good chance they didn’t get so red and delicious all by themselves. This is a grave public health issue that must be addressed at the state, if not national, level. Please join me in urging Gov. Jerry Brown to reverse the CDP’s decision. You can also sign the national petition here.

In the meantime, if you manage to find yourself some organic (preferably local) strawberries, make Jonsi and Alex’s raw strawberry coconut pie. It will make you wish you had made two. (This video is a riot, but the recipe is also available in written form if you prefer.) Enjoy!

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