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Let’s check, mate

Submitted by on 1, March 6, 2008 – 8:06 amNo Comment

Anybody check out the Chron’s story today questioning the need to spray entire Bay Area communities with pesticide in an effort to wipe out the light brown apple moth? You may want to, because Alameda is on the list of places slated for aerial spraying this summer.

Apparently, the Australia natives have been sighted across much of the Bay Area since one was first discovered in a Berkeley resident’s yard last March; federal officials have ordered the quarantine of an array of California greenery and produce until the problem is fixed. They estimate the moths could cost California’s agriculture industry $105 million. They’ve laid out $90 million so far to try to kill the little critters.

The controversial eradication plan includes aerial spraying of a pesticide called Checkmate over many Bay Area communities, including Alameda, three to five nights a month for the next five years. The Environmental Protection Agency has okayed the use of the pesticide, saying its health effects are negligible. But opponents of the spraying plan point out that hundreds of people fell ill last summer after the state sprayed communities in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The materials safety data sheet on the main product to be used has no established exposure limits listed. According to the document, long term studies on the pheromone-based spray’s active ingredients have not been done, though it says no adverse, chronic effects are expected.

Albany is fighting the spray plans, and the Contra Costa Times reported that Berkeley is threatening to sue. It doesn’t look like our city council has opined on this yet, though our man in Sacramento, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, is one of five legislators pushing bills to slow the spraying.

Now scientists are questioning the need to spray, saying it’s unlikely the moth can be eradicated and that it’s not that big of a threat to crops anyway, according to the Chron. They say the moth has several natural predators that would keep its population in check. This would be the first time Checkmate pesticides are sprayed over cities, the Chron article says.

Oh well. At least we’re not San Francisco, where plan are afoot to launch millions of tiny, wingless wasps to eat the moths’ larvae in Golden Gate Park.

And if that’s not enough, a group called Stop the Spray at http://www.stopthespray.org/ has a wide array of materials on its site.

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