(Beyond Pesticides, April 28, 2008) On April 24, a Santa Cruz County, California Court ruled that the light brown apple moth (LBAM) is not an immediate threat and delayed aerial spraying of a pheromone pesticide, CheckMate, in order to complete an environmental impact report. Then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to delay the aerial spraying, vowing to prove that the chemical is safe. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “Judge Paul Burdick said the state did not prove that the invasive light brown apple moth poses an immediate threat to life or property. As a result, he said, an emergency exception to finish the review while the spraying continues was not justified.” Governor Schwarzenegger announced on the same day that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will postpone aerial spraying with the pheromone pesticide until acute toxicology testing of eye, inhalation, respiratory and other potential irritants is completed. “I am confident that the additional tests will reassure Californians that we are taking the safest, most progressive approach to ridding our state of this very real threat to our agriculture, environment and economy,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in a press statement. CDFA estimates that once the testing is complete the department will begin aerial treatment on August 17, 2008 in the Monterey-Santa Cruz coastal area.
In response to the court ruling regarding the LBAM eradication project, CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura stated, “My department will aggressively seek an expedited appeal of this ruling, which threatens the safety of our agriculture, environment, and economy. The light brown apple moth is a serious threat not just to Santa Cruz but to the entire state, and the method we are using is the safest, most progressive eradication program available.” Although CDFA continues to stress that LBAM is a serious threat, “When Burdick asked the state’s attorney for evidence of damage caused by the 10,000 plus moths found in Santa Cruz County since April 2007[,] [t]he state was not able to provide any,” according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. CDFA has also stated that beginning May 5, 2008, pheromone-infused twist ties will be used to eradicate the light brown apple moth within the communities of Cupertino, Sunnyvale and San Jose. According to CDFA, moth pheromone, which is odorless and colorless, creates mating disruption by preventing male moths from locating females. Twist ties will be applied within a 200-meter radius covering 27.12 square miles, as part of CDFA’s eradication plan. Residents in this area will receive notices detailing the treatment and inviting them to an informational open house on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. Additionally, a second light brown apple moth has been detected in Sonoma County, in close enough proximity to a moth found in February that triggered quarantine regulations which are currently being prepared.
A cooperative eradication program run jointly by CDFA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is already underway to suppress and eradicate infestations in nine other counties along California’s Central Coast and Bay Area. Since its detection in February 2007, the LBAM has been found and quarantines have been enacted in the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Alameda, Solano and Santa Barbara. A quarantine is pending in Sonoma County. Small, isolated infestations detected last year in Los Angeles and Napa counties have already been eradicated. Twist ties were utilized in both counties.There are many concerned about the pheromone application. Aerial spraying for the LBAM has resulted in 463 illness reports after spraying began last fall. Another concern is the populations of endangered and threatened moths and butterflies that could be impacted by the aerial applications. A number of counties in California’s Bay Area have voiced strong opposition to state plans to aerially spray.
The pesticide CheckMate LBAM-F works as a pheromone that disrupts the mating cycle of the moth. Least toxic alternatives for pest control include the use of pheromones. However, the uncertainty about so-called inert or undisclosed ingredients included in many pesticide formulations remains a serious concern. Beyond Pesticides advocates for full disclosure of all pesticide product ingredients, including so-called inert ingredients, questions the efficacy of aerial applications of any pesticide that, by their nature, cause unnecessary exposure, and is urging targeted ground efforts only as a last resort.
For more information, see the Daily News coverage on LBAM.