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Methyl Bromide - Biological and Economic Assessment 1/93

                         THE BIOLOGIC AND ECONOMIC
                       ASSESSMENT OF METHYL BROMIDE

                The National Agricultural Pesticide Impact
                        Assessment Program (NAPIAP)

                  United States Department of Agriculture

                               January 1993

                             EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

      Methyl bromide is very important to United States agriculture.
      It is used widely as a soil fumigant and in post harvest as
      well as quarantine treatments to control a variety of pests on
      numerous crops.  For many uses there are no alternative
      chemicals or other viable treatment options to replace methyl
      bromide.  The loss of methyl bromide would be extremely costly
      to individual agricultural producers and to consumers, thus
      having a detrimental impact on the U.S. economy.

      When the Montreal Protocol 1991 Assessment indicated methyl
      bromide was in a category of chemicals that are allegedly
      responsible for depleting the stratospheric ozone layer, the
      Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated action under
      the Clean Air Act, which calls for a phaseout of chemicals
      threatening the ozone layer by the year 2000.  There are many
      scientific uncertainties regarding methyl bromide's
      relationship to ozone depletion, including 1) the relative
      contributions of methyl bromide to the atmosphere from natural
      and anthropogenic sources, 2) quantification of possible
      reaction changes involving methyl bromide that produce the
      relatively unreactive form of bromine, hydrogen bromide, 3)
      the lifetime of methyl bromide in the atmosphere, and 4) the
      amount of methyl bromide emissions from agricultural uses.

      Because of these unknown factors pertaining to methyl bromide
      and the ozone layer, as well as methyl bromide's critical role
      in U.S. agriculture, more scientific investigation needs to be
      conducted before making a determination on the removal of this

      Use of Methyl Bromide

      According to industry sources, approximately 64 million pounds
      of methyl bromide were used in the United States in 1990, of
      which 44 to 49 million pounds were used for soil fumigation, 5
      million pounds for post harvest and quarantine treatments, 4
      to 9 million pounds for fumigating structures, and 6 million
      pounds as a chemical intermediate in manufacturing.  Thus, of
      the total 64 million pounds used, more than 80 percent is for
      agriculturally related purposes.

      Based upon a survey of the States to determine the most
      critical uses, and where these uses occurred, the National
      Agricultural Pesticide Impact Assessment Program (NAPIAP)
      assessed the benefits of methyl bromide use for soil
      fumigation on 21 crops in California, Florida, Georgia, North
      Carolina and South Carolina.  In addition, data were included
      from Kentucky on use of methyl bromide for soil fumigation in
      tobacco production and from Florida for post harvest treatment
      of citrus.  The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
      (APHIS) provided an assessment of quarantine uses.  As a soil
      fumigant, methyl bromide is used to control insects, plant
      pathogens, nematodes, and weeds.  About  38 million pounds
      were used for soil fumigation in the five States.  This
      represents approximately 80 percent of the total soil
      fumigation use of methyl bromide in the United States.  The
      largest soil fumigation uses were 13 million pounds for
      tomatoes, 6 million pounds for strawberries, 5 million for
      peppers, 4 million for ornamentals and nurseries, 4 million
      pounds for tobacco, and 2 million pounds each for grapes and
      melons.  Use is primarily in California and Florida,
      accounting for 12 and 18 million pounds, respectively.

      Economic Losses

      This assessment shows that actions to ban or restrict methyl
      bromide use in the U.S. would be costly because currently
      available alternative control practices are less effective or
      more expensive than methyl bromide.  Due to the compounding
      effects of a likely increase in various pests, estimates
      cannot be made for losses after the first few years without
      methyl bromide.  It is estimated that the annual economic loss
      to U.S. producers and consumers resulting from a ban of methyl
      bromide would be approximately $1.1 to 1.3 billion.  Of that
      total, $800 to 900 million would be attributed to soil
      fumigation and $200 million to fumigation of imports.
      However, the voluntary cancellation by the registrant of
      Vorlex removes a major alternative to methyl bromide for
      melons, ornamentals, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and
      tobacco.  Without Vorlex as an alternative, there would be an
      additional economic loss of about $200 million if methyl
      bromide were banned, because the remaining alternatives are
      less effective.  About 90 percent of that additional loss
      would be attributed to fresh market tomatoes.  Additionally,
      exports worth $200 million annually are treated with methyl
      bromide as a condition of entry to the importing country.
      Without effective alternatives to methyl bromide, these
      markets for U.S. exports would be lost; however, some of the
      commodities, if they could be produced in the U.S.,  could be
      sold elsewhere at a lower price.  Production of some crops may
      shift to other countries.

      The major portion of crop losses would be attributable to
      fresh market tomatoes ($350 million), ornamentals ($170
      million), tobacco ($130 million), peppers ($130 million), and
      strawberries ($110 million).  Florida tomato production would
      decline 45 to 50 percent, strawberrry production 65 to 70
      percent, while Florida cucumber, eggplant, and pepper
      production would virtually disappear.  A significant portion
      of the loss would be borne by U.S. consumers due to reduced
      supplies and higher prices of fruit, vegetables, and other
      crops.  Imports could moderate price increases and consumer
      losses but magnify financial losses by U.S. producers.
      Countries whose exports must be fumigated before entry to the
      U.S. market would lose a share of that market.

      A phase-out of methyl bromide use, which could occur under the
      Clean Air Act, would, for the immediate future, reduce the
      annual losses from those estimated above by allowing more
      valuable uses of methyl bromide to be retained for a number of
      years.  This would also provide time for the possibility for
      new alternatives to be developed and time for consumers and
      producers to adjust.  However, the likelihood of developing
      new, effective fumigant alternatives to methyl bromide appears
      very remote.