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July, 2008



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Peter Coyote, The Light Brown Apple Moth,
And The New Zealand Report
By Karen Nakamura

It was a sunny Sunday in Sausalito. Folks came for a fine picnic and good music, including local songstress Rozzi Crane belting out the blues. But it was more than fun and games. Discussion was centered on the aerial chemical spray targeting the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) across San Francisco Bay counties including the afternoon's exquisite surroundings.
Happily, on June 19th, the CDFA and USDA cancelled the scheduled sprayings. New facts have come to light that show chemical spraying is the last thing that should be done if the potentially dangerous moth is to be contained.

Towering above all other reports which may have swayed the decision makers is Integrated Pest Management Practices for the Light Brown Apple Moth in New Zealand: Implications for California, by Dr. Daniel Harder, botanist and Executive Director of the U. C. Santa Cruz Arboretum, and Jeff Rosendale, grower and horticultural consultant from Watsonville.

In January of 2008, they made an onsite study of New Zealand's successful control of the Light Brown Apple Moth, (LBAM) and how similar techniques could be used in California. New Zealand was chosen because its climate and crops are similar to California's coastal farming areas.

The Master of Ceremonies at the picnic was long time activist and actor Peter Coyote. The CP asked him what he thought the core problem was. He spoke before the cancellation but his words are still relevant as, along with the New Zealand report, they point the way to future solutions.

"Here the issue is really about the government trying to use a military style campaign on a little guy. The upcoming spraying will affect not only the Light Brown Apple Moth but also the microbes that rejuvenate the soil and insects and pollinators like bees in the area. The government acts like the ingredients are harmless but they refuse to make public 20 -30% of them."

While Peter may be right about non-disclosure, the known ingredients were scary enough. Of those other 82%, so-called "inert" chemicals, Fish and Game has declared six toxic. Research shows so-called inert chemicals can become progressively more dangerous when mixed with water and warn against spraying near open water. Two days after one Santa Cruz spraying, it rained, the toxic brew washed out into the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.

According to the Cox & Surgan study of 2006 sponsored by the Center for Environmental Health, "The word 'inert' on pesticide labels is commonly mistaken to mean inactive." However, the EPA stated in 2002 that "although the term inert may connote physical, chemical or biological inactivity, use of the word to describe a component in a pesticide product means only that the substance is not intended to exert a pesticidal effect."

Cox and Surgan note, "that inerts can increase the toxicity of pesticides to body systems such as the nervous, cardiovascular and hormonal systems, the mitochondrial and genetic material [and] interact with other chemicals to increase human exposure levels to the pesticide. Additionally, inerts have been shown to raise the eco-toxicity of pesticide formulations; increasing the severity of toxic effects to plants, animals and non-target micro organisms."

Moreover, the practice of "broadcast pheromone spraying" to control the moth has not been shown effective because "female moths issue a more concentrated scent plume than the dispersed pheromone scent of an aerial spray application, so male moths are able to find the females."

Coyote continued: "You have to realize that the chemical company delivers these sprays in microscopic plastic nodules. Think of it like this. Smoke has 2 nodules of particulate matter per mg; the spray has 5. That means it can easily be inhaled into deep lung tissue and is never eliminated.

"By the EPA declaring the situation an emergency, scientific expression and discussion are cut short. Almost any time the government does a fast run around regulations, it's not in the public interest. There are other curiosities. We formerly used the presence of this moth to block imports of produce from New Zealand. Now New Zealand is using the moth's presence in California as a means to block export of our produce. They insist on the same assurances we insisted on with them. Then there's the fact that most pesticides are petroleum based in an unstable world environment. This is an issue of global trade wars with the local population being asked to pick up the tab."

However, according to New Zealand's HortResearch, "LBAM is not of biological concern …in New Zealand but remains a …concern only because it is a quarantine pest for exports... Today very few New Zealand fruit shipments are rejected by the U.S. which further suggests that New Zealand growers' LBAM controls relying on natural predators and IPM strategies are successful."

The New Zealand report goes on: "[The LBAM] has been kept in check by natural predators, (birds, spiders, wasps, beetles, lacewings and earwigs) and Integrated Pest Management techniques with few or no chemical applications.

"The success of New Zealand is a model of best IPM practices that can be readily adopted in California to control LBAM, particularly because many of the natural LBAM predators that are present in New Zealand are also found in California. California has an abundance of enemies and beneficial organisms that control the 300+ species of moths here. Due to the similarity of LBAM to these other moths, these enemies will also control LBAM populations and have for many decades.

"The Light Brown Apple Moth… is considered a minor pest that does not cause economically significant crop damage or have detrimental effect on native flora. Today, [the moth] is effectively controlled almost exclusively by natural predators in both agricultural settings and wild lands in New Zealand.

"Pyrethroids (natural or synthetic chemicals) are effective against LBAM but are also detrimental to beneficial insects and pollinators, making these products undesirable for long-term IPM of LBAM… Organophosphates were destroying beneficial insects and creating resistant insects, and orchards and vineyards were becoming LBAM breeding grounds. Once organophosphates were removed from the system and populations of beneficials were left to develop naturally, complete control of LBAM was realized in less than 5 years.

The obvious answer then is to NOT kill our insect friends but accept them as our protectors and support them. Adding to these findings, UC Davis entomologist and invasive species expert Dr. James Carey said:

"This is the kind of careful science that [the California Department of Food and Agriculture] should have undertaken before launching their eradication program. The Harder-Rosendale report and its conclusions should be taken seriously by CDFA, USDA, and the public at large."

Many scientists feel the USDA should re-classify the LBAM from its current "Quarantinable/ Class A" status to a less restrictive designation and end the declared LBAM Emergency. This will also result in a lifting of quarantines imposed on California's farmers.

"And let's not forget," Peter finished, "that Suterra LLC, manufacturer of CheckMate is owned by wealthy California agro-businessman, Stewart Resnick of Los Angeles, a major campaign donor ($144,000) of Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party.

The real problem is industrial agriculture because when you have a field of 1200 acres planted with one crop, you give such an advantage to the predator of that crop that you have to use toxic chemicals to control them both. However if fields are smaller and you grow diverse crops next to each other, other predators of the predator find a place to live. It balances the system.

"As we are seeing in Iowa the United States is getting a graphic lesson of the cost of using toxins. The floodwaters have overrun fields with sewerage and are spreading a poisonous broth everywhere they go, polluting the water table and drinking water. So if we're not going to kill ourselves protecting the shareholders of agro-industry we have to stop these kind of military style assaults on species that threaten our profits and to learn how to work with nature instead of ignorantly pretending we stand outside it."

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