People are up in arms about the Light Brown Apple Moth and the government's spraying program designed to eradicate it. The question everyone is asking is, why are people being sprayed with an unregistered pesticide along with crops and fields?
Drina Brooke wants answers, so she sent a letter to the Department of Agriculture to see what they had to say. Here is their response:
Dear Ms. Brooke,
Thank you for writing about the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) project. I value hearing your thoughts on the project's impact on California. California must work to combat the LBAM because of the complex threat it poses to our diverse range of agricultural and natural plant life. This invasive pest attacks more than 250 crops and 2,000 plants and threatens the native and endangered species that depend on them. If it becomes established statewide, the LBAM has the potential to cause billions of dollars of damage annually and cost the state numerous jobs. California has a duty to prevent the spread of the LBAM before it crosses borders into other states, agricultural regions and environments.
The LBAM is an invasive pest - not native to California - with few natural enemies here to reduce its expanding population. To combat this growing threat, we have proposed an integrated pest-management approach utilizing aerial and ground application of a moth pheromone. However, misinformation about the LBAM and our program continues to spread and cause unwarranted fear - despite constant and open dialogue for more than a year with citizens and local officials. There has been no shortage of grossly exaggerated and completely unsubstantiated claims - such as the pheromone product's being untested and the treatments causing red tide (red tide is a naturally occurring marine algal bloom). Fortunately, the actual facts and due diligence have proven these claims false.
Pheromones are simply chemical signals that resemble a scent. Pheromone treatments have been used in the United States and around the world in agricultural and urban areas (including residential areas of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin) for more than a decade without incident. As recently as last year, more than 3 million acres in the United States were aerially treated with moth pheromones to disrupt the mating of the harmful gypsy moths.
For years, environmentalists have urged farmers to develop alternatives to conventional, toxic, "kill-on-contact" pesticides; pheromones are the alternative. These pheromones do not even harm the moths; they merely mimic a signal "scent" naturally emitted by the female moth, thereby distracting the males so they cannot locate a mate and reproduce.
Recently, the claim that residents became sick from past treatments has held the public's attention and has been the subject of demonstrations. Public health officials with three state departments thoroughly reviewed health claims submitted during and after the aerial pheromone treatments last year in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and could find no link between the claims and the treatments. As the Governor recently said in Monterey, the spraying is safe, and "there is nothing that says otherwise."
I also hear a number of misleading and inaccurate references to describe the pheromone, including: hormone, carcinogen, mutagen, endocrine disruptor and other inaccurate descriptions. These unsupported claims overlook the fact that the federal Environmental Protection Agency, our state's Department of Pesticide Regulation and numerous health agencies have thoroughly reviewed and unanimously approved these products and their classification as pheromones. In fact, the pheromone products we have used in this program are approved for treating organic crops; they are safe enough that the law states you don't even have to wait or wash them off after a treatment before you eat the produce.
However, to thoroughly ensure everyone's safety, the aerial spraying has been postponed while we complete what's known as "six-pack" toxicology tests in addition to the normal extensive tests on the pheromone products. These tests thoroughly test toxicity for eye, inhalation, respiratory and other potential irritants. I am confident that these additional tests will reassure Californians that we are taking the safest, most health-conscious and most progressive our state of this very real threat to our agriculture, environment and economy. I implore everyone to rely on sound science and to shut the door on false information. For more information about the LBAM project, please visit our website at www.cdfa.ca.gov <http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/> or call the LBAM hotline at 1-800-491-1899.
As a public official, I am sworn to protect the public, the environment and the ecosystems that make California such a uniquely productive and sustainable resource. I take that responsibility seriously, and I vow to pursue only the safest, most environmentally friendly means available.
Again, thank you for writing
Sincerely,A.G. Kawamura, Secretary
California Department of Food and Agriculture
I am so relieved to hear that this agency is sworn to protect the public, and that all those people who got sick from the last spraying must have been mistaken about their illnesses. The following statement from the Agriculture department's Secretary A.G. Kawamura is so reassuring. To bad it is false.