Moth Spray stopped! Sterile moths, instead, in urban areas

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Visceral images, like the one posted above, helped build public awareness of and opposition to the aerial spraying of synthetic moth pheromones over urban areas like San Francisco.

The California Department of Agriculture and US Department of Agriculture just announced that they will be using sterile moths, and NOT aerially spraying pheromones, at least over URBAN areas as part of their Light Brown Apple Moth eradication program.

Spraying will proceed in non-urban areas, non-accessible by driving, such as national forests, CDFA Secretary AG Kawamura said.

Sterile releases of adult moths are expected either in late fall, or early in 2009, beginning with 500,000 adults sterile moths, and working up to 20 million a day, by 2011.

"This technology looks like it might be going to ramp up faster," CDFA Secretary AG Kawamura said, stressing that he is still very convinced that aerial pheromones are a "remarkable tool," and claiming to be, "pleased that we don't have to go with an aerial application over urban areas, because we feel progress with sterile moths will fit in with our urban eradication program."

Cindy Smith, Administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) repeated the position of USDA and CDFA concerning the Light Brown Apple Moth
"THis is a very serious pest. We are happy to have a wide variety of tools in our toolbox".

Kawamura defined urban areas as residential areas, not faming areas, and included in his urban definition Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, where the aerial spraying program was initiated last summer.

Pheromone technology will continue to be used on twist ties and plans to release parasitic wasps go forward.

"When we started in July/August 2007, we had made such progress from days of malathion, but the challenge of doing public outreach," said CDFA Secretary Kawamura, the closest he came to admitting that the reason for abruptly abandoning the aerial pheromone spraying program lies with the tremendous public uproar that ensued.

A planned environmental impact report of the LBAM eradication plan will go ahead, Kawamura confirmed.

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Thousands of sterile moths will be released across California to create mating confusion and cause a population crash of the moth which continues to be classified by state and federal agencies as a worrisom invasive pest.

The pilot sterile moth program will be dictated by a trapping program that shows where the highest or expanding populations are found, Kawamura said.

As for concerns that all synthetic pheromones could pose health concerns, even on twist ties in trees, Kawamura begged, "Please listen to public health officers about safety of pheromone twist ties. "If this moth gets established, the burden of having to deal with it...we're just trying to keep the damage out, by using the best and safest environmental tools available."

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office has been working with public law offices and community organizations throughout the Bay Area to monitor the CDFA's plans with respect to the program, issued a statement in response, saying "The state's aerial spray program has been a dead man walking since April, when a Santa Cruz Superior Court ruled that an environmental impact report was required to fully assess potential human health risks. So, I'm glad CDFA appears to have accepted the inevitable. At the same time, I intend to continue to work closely with other public law offices throughout the Bay Area to monitor LBAM eradication plans in the event legal action becomes necessary to protect public health and safety."

There are memos posted on the California Department of Agriculture's website, sent from CDFA to Gov. Armold Schwarzenegger, and from Arnie to AGK, (CDFA Secretary AG Kawamura) being mutually supportive about the decision to stop the spray and start the release of sterile moths, instead, memos that confirm insider rumors that Arnie privately conceded that the moth spraying program was a no-go, at the beginning of this week.