Apple moth spraying suspended in urban areas

June 20, 2008 12:10:34 AM PDT
There's major victory Thursday night for opponents of aerial spraying to eradicate the light brown apple moth. The state is changing its plan to fight a tiny pest with a huge potential to devastate the state's agriculture industry. The new battle plan does not involve an aerial attack.

It's an old technique that uses no chemicals, pheromones, or synthetics. Instead, it involves sterile apple moths. Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura announced the state's new plan late this afternoon.

"The moths will mate, but the eggs will be sterile. They won't be fertilized and when the population of insects, the moths, aren't able to reproduce, then they collapse. And that's how we get to eradication so it's a very good significant step forward," said Kawamura.

A USDA lab in Albany is playing a key role. Workers there are ramping up colonies of sterile moths which could be released late this year.

All of this comes as a relief for Bay Area residents who voiced outrage over the state's original eradication plan. It involved sending planes to spray a synthetic pheromone over the entire Bay Area.

State Senator Carole Migden led the opposition at the state capitol.

"We should be heartened by the news. I think this is reassuring. We'll certainly feel safer," said Senator Migden.

There's no question, pressure from the public was becoming overwhelming. For months, moms worried about the possible health effects of aerial spraying, staged protests. Local governments, meanwhile, passed resolutions opposing the spraying, 29 cities and three Bay Area counties to be exact. Groups like Pesticide Action Network say it was all worth it.

"It's a sane decision to go that direction and we think there's a message for pest management broadly, especially in areas where pesticides are used daily like the Central Valley. This was a wake-up wall," said Steve Scholl-Buckwald, from the Pesticide Action Network.

Even though aerial spraying has been halted, the state is keeping other parts of the program intact which include ground spraying and pheromone twist ties. John Muller runs a farm in Half Moon Bay and is holding out hope the program will work, not only for himself, but for the country.

"We have to ensure that we don't destroy the production of California agriculture. Look what we're going through with the energy crisis. My God if we in America ever have a food crisis, it's just unimaginable," said John Muller, from Daylight Farm.

Some sterile moths could be released as early as the end of this year, but it will likely be a year or two before the program is fully implemented. The sterile technique is similar to how the Agriculture Officials eradicated the med fly.


Load Comments