OPINION On Aug. 1, 2008, the California Department of Food and Agriculture plans to spray the San Francisco Bay Area from the air with a time-released pesticide in an effort to wipe out the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM). There will be continuous spraying every 30 to 90 days for the next two to 10 years. We can't leave town for the weekend and come back when it's clear; there will be no "all-clear" to come home to. The CDFA claims that the spray "should be" safe, despite that it has never been independently tested and no environmental studies have been done.
We represent concerned families with children, pets, and loved ones with respiratory ailments. The more we research this proposal, the more upset and opposed we're becoming. Thus far we've learned that the pheromone pesticide, Checkmate OLF-R, is untested, contains known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and is delivered in time-released microcapsules that can be inhaled and lodged in the lungs, causing respiratory harm.
Here are some of the warnings on the Checkmate label:
KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.... Harmful if absorbed through the skin. Harmful if inhaled.... IF ON SKIN OR CLOTHING: Take off contaminated clothing. Rinse skin immediately with plenty of water for 15-20 minutes. Call poison control ...
The US Department of Agriculture announced emergency funding to combat the LBAM infestation in California, bypassing the normal safety and environmental studies, and asks us to take on faith that aerial spraying is necessary and safe. How many times have we been told something was safe only to hear a big "oops" a few years or decades later? Thalidomide, DDT, Agent Orange.... The most vulnerable populations include fetuses, pregnant women, and children.
Biologists and etymologists agree that aerial spraying will not accomplish the CDFA goal of eradicating the moth. Instead, they encourage focus on containment. Less invasive, integrated pest management solutions for the LBAM exist and are working for other countries such as New Zealand, whose climate and flora are comparable to California's. Aerial spraying is expensive, outdated, unsustainable, and ultimately likely to be unsuccessful.
What is even more alarming is that the LBAM has not proven to be a devastating pest elsewhere. It has not caused crop damage in Hawaii over the past 100 years. Europe has no restrictions against it. According to a report published by horticulturalists Daniel Harder and Jeff Rosendale, the moth rarely penetrates fruit, does not defoliate plants, and at worst causes only cosmetic damage.
We don't want to be the guinea pigs for this wasteful, thoughtless, and high-risk approach. Do not sit quietly.
We are planning a peaceful "play-in" with children present on Monday, April 28 at 10 a.m. in front of City Hall to show our strength against this immoral and illegal plan. Play, not spray.
Nina Gold, Amy Lodato, Lynn Murphy, Patricia Ardziejewski
Nina Gold, Amy Lodato, Lynn Murphy, and Patricia Ardziejewski are members of Play Not Spray, a group opposed to the LBAM spraying.