President George Bush has brought the international treaty aimed at repairing the Earth's vital ozone layer close to breakdown, risking millions of cancers, to benefit strawberry and tomato growers in the electorally critical state of Florida, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
His administration is insisting on a sharp increase in spraying of the most dangerous ozone-destroying chemical still in use, the pesticide methyl bromide, even though it is due to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol in little more than a year. And it has threatened that the United States could withdraw from the treaty's provisions altogether if its demand is not met.
Talks on the unprecedented demand broke down without agreement at the conference in Nairobi this month as US delegates refused to consider any compromise. They even rejected a European Union proposal that would have allowed farmers to use the same amount of the pesticide as at present, even though this, itself, would violate the spirit of the protocol.
The crisis has come to a head at a particularly embarrassing moment for Tony Blair, who this week played host to George Bush on the first state visit by a US President. For three years, the Prime Minister has been quietly attempting to persuade him to stop trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol, designed to combat global warming. But now Mr Bush is trying to emasculate what the UN regards as the most successful international environmental agreement ever made.
I think this is known as the bring-'em-on approach to environmental disasters.