Moth spraying stirs health concerns

March 10, 2008 9:32:17 PM PDT
Activists from across the state and some lawmakers are calling for a halt to aerial spraying for the "light brown apple moth."

Several hundred people complained about health problems after the spraying last year, and it's now scheduled for twelve counties including Santa Clara, Marin and San Francisco.

Dozens of concerned residents who live where aerial spraying is slated this summer rallied against the move at the State Capitol on Monday morning. State officials say the spray will stop the light brown apple moth from reproducing.

State Senator Carole Migden joined the group saying the spray could be dangerous.

"We are all concerned as you can see this assemblage and there has been an outpouring from literally thousands of people once the state publicized its intention to spray this summer," said State Senator Carole Midgen (D)

The State Department of Food and Agriculture has scheduled aerial spraying of areas where the moth has been found in nine Bay Area counties beginning this June and again in August.

It's an attempt to stave off at least $160 million dollars in crop damage each year. State Senator Migden says the spraying last year proved to be dangerous.

"There is a fear of being contaminated. These folks who were sprayed with the concoction last year in Santa Cruz and Monterey county have reported incidents of illness," said Midgen.

"There is no evidence that the aerial treatment with the apple moth pheromone causes any problems beyond creating mating confusion in moths," said Lyle from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Steve Lyle with the California Department of Food and Agriculture has been trying to allay the fears of residents of apple moth infected areas for months. Officials held dozens of meetings telling residents the spray is an organic hormone, not a common insecticide for a dangerous pesticide.

"If you ask most people if they should have the right to control what they should be allowed to ingest the answer is duh," said a Bay Area resident.

State officials say the apple moth is a threat to everything green in California, especially crops and nurseries. Studies on which one of three pheromone sprays to use this summer are now being done in New Zealand where the moth is well known.

State officials say they'll know next month which one of the three sprays to use this summer. They're looking at a spray that will stay in the environment for more than 30-days so that aerial spraying would be less frequent.