Volume 35, Issue 1
COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
|They're Hungary And They're Coming|
By Karen Nakamura
of us saw the scary ad by HungryPests.org produced by the US Department
of Agriculture USDA) showing the little girl skipping through an
orchard as fruit decays in her wake. That is until she transforms into
a swarm of Killer Insects. "They're Hungry and They're Coming!" It's as
creepy as any Halloween "slasher flick". Then there's the problem of
terrifying children whose parents have spent hours showing how
beautiful and beneficial the little creatures are.
Most of all, the ad highlights the growing tension between the two
preeminent forces in the race for a better tomorrow. One seeks to
protect their personal possessions at any cost from the terrifying
outside world while the other seeks to save all sentient beings,
insects included. Farmers, caught in the middle, legitimately fear the
destructive power of certain species. Environmentalists agree. It's the
approach to the problem that makes the difference.
The State's Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released a report
in June that traps in Santa Cruz County had captured 13,498 moths in
the first five months of 2009 in comparison to the 15,439 found in all
of 2008. Santa Cruz County came in second only to San Francisco County.
The stated intention of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in
the ad, they insist, was to convince visitors not to violate California
quarantine laws forbidding transportation of unexamined produce into
the state. They want it understood destructive insects travel on the
healthiest looking fruit and endanger California's $39 billion produce
Absolutely true... but the overall tone
of the ad smacks of the 1800s campaign against "The Yellow Hordes."
Unfortunately, in the same vein, the USDA points to sites in Los
Angeles County where Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian fruit flies and
Australia guava moth have been found and which by subtle implication
comes with immigration from "third world" countries.
Traditional agribusiness and chemical interests believe, ultimately,
that insects (like illegal immigrants) have little redeeming value
except what the industry controls and, for the most part, should be
eradicated. However, chemical air sprayings, a favorite method of
application for agribusiness, have been linked to health problems,
cancer clusters and wildlife kill offs especially among butterflies,
honeybees, fish and shellfish.
methods of control include ground spraying, pheromone ties and the
release of sterile males. The state's eradication program would include
Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Barbara and all nine Bay Area
counties and include the application of the carcinogen Permethrin to
trees and telephone poles.
At a meeting held
August 31 by the CDFA on environmental impact concerns in Watsonville,
speakers including those from city and county agencies insisted the
chemical applications hadn't proven their value. One farmer said it was
impossible to do effective spraying when areas such as nearby backyards
and city parks weren't included.
botanist and director of UC Santa Cruz Arboretum said the plan to
chemically eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) was not
necessary or possible and that none of the studies and reports he's
seen proved the effectiveness of spraying even on large commercial
fields. "It's experimental and includes human subjects."
Nan Wishner of Stop the Spray East Bay and Chair of the City of
Albany's Integrated Pest Management Task Force pointed to gaps in the
CDFA argument for the apple moth program declaring it has shown no
justification to continue. "We call on CDFA to end this unsafe,
unnecessary, ineffective and costly program now."
Marin's own Debbie Friedman, Chair of Mothers of Marin Against the
Spray (MOMAS) followed with "The CDFA's determination to spend over
ninety million tax dollars annually on a program without sound
scientific merit is unconscionable, particularly now, when schools and
vital services are facing drastic cuts."
Environmentalists prefer enhancing nature's checks and balances to
control destructive insects. Many local governments around the nation
have or are adopting Integrated Pest Management procedures that use
chemicals only as a last resort. New Zealand is well known for the
success it's had balancing crop plantings to include those that attract
predator insects and creating a healthy life cycle.
The USDA points to the destruction by the LBAM, (mascot of the
environmental movement), to an organic blackberry field in Watsonville
during May of 2009 as justification of the program. The San Jose
Mercury quoted Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the USDA saying: "We've
seen large numbers of LBAM but before now there has not been noticeable
damage. Now there is. In ...this particular field over in Santa Cruz
County, the grower is not being able to market a substantial amount of
the fruit. That's economic damage." Cane-berries, such as raspberries
and blackberries make up approximately one fifth of the county's $492
million agricultural output.
Nan Wishner visited
the affected blackberry field. After walking for what seemed miles, she
viewed a small patch of infested berries over in a corner, hardly
worthy of a massive media campaign. It's been reported that 20% of the
field's blackberry crop was affected and couldn't be sold.
Amazingly and backing the position taken by ecologists, no further
incidents of infestation were reported as of the end of September.
What's perhaps even more amazing is how the ecology movement has grown
from hippies saving whales and hugging trees to the powerful worldwide
movement it is today.
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