Chemicals and quarantines - Page 3

San Francisco officials resist plans to use aerial spraying against a potentially damaging moth

"So, for God's sake, don't bring, mail, or FedEx fruit and vegetables into California, because border inspectors are looking for bombs and terrorists, not produce and moths.

"We live in a global economy, and we have trade agreements that say if one person gets a pest, you have to do something about it," Walker added. "Nobody wants to be sprayed. Even when I spray organic seaweed on my fruit trees, I wear a mask. So I understand the gut reaction. But by refusing to be sprayed, you're punishing the wrong person — the farmer — who already has to deal with the vagaries of the weather, the marketplace, and pests like the medfly."

Chris Mittelstaedt, who lives in San Francisco with his family and runs Fruitguys, a small business that delivers organic fruit to offices, said he's personally against the spraying. "But as a company, we are going to wait a few weeks before letting people know what we officially think or endorse as a plan of action," Mittelstaedt told us.

Other city dwellers are less ambivalent. Frank Eggers, a former Fairfax mayor who is organizing a group called Stop the Spray, said, "[World Trade Organization] stuff is driving this so-called moth emergency.

"We're allowing other countries to quarantine our produce. And with the global economy, climate change, and travel, we're going be facing this issue continuously. But we can't keep putting poison on our land, or say we'll put you in quarantine if you don't accept our aerial bombardment," he said.

Paul Schramski, state director of Pesticide Watch, worries that the state and federal agencies are still not listening to the people of California.

"If this is not being driven by trade agreements, then I'm not sure what is the driver. We don't have all the facts. But it's not being driven by actual crop damage," Schramski said. "We agree that this invasive moth should be controlled, but it's a false premise to believe that the choice is between aerial spraying or nothing. The state has known since August that the public was opposed to spraying, so why aren't we producing more twist ties?"

CDFA, which used $500,000 in USDA funds to hire PR agency Porter Novelli last November at the height of public outcry, is currently researching pheromone products that last up to 90 days and is also planning to use pheromone-loaded twist ties, sticky traps, and stingerless parasitic wasps in its LBAM program.

"We believe this to be a biological emergency," CDFA public affairs supervisor Steve Lyle told us. "If we waited a year or two, so we could first do an EIR, we would lose the battle and become generally infested."

Ironically, California's best hope for not being sprayed ad infinitum may lie in the discovery that the moth has spread to other states.

"It would make a significant impact if we were to find the insect established in other places," the USDA's Hawkins told us. "It doesn't mean we would throw up our hands and walk away, but it would remove some of the argument that the rest of America is at risk from California if other states already have it."

But until that time, Hawkins warned that if state legislators demand a moratorium, forced spraying won't be the federal government's only option: "Maybe California would have to be quarantined. And now we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars."