Moth Spraying Postponed for Health Testing

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced yesterday that the state will postpone aerial spraying against the light brown apple moth until testing of the spray is completed.

The spraying is designed to eradicate the light brown apple moth which the California Department of Food and Agriculture says poses a threat to more than 2,000 plant species. The spray is comprised of pheromones, or sex hormones, that confuse male moths and keep them from mating until they die.

Concerns about its potential human health effects have led to efforts to stop the spraying.

Schwarzenegger has postponed spraying until August 17, pending the results of the toxicity tests.

Yesterday's announcement follows Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick's decision to halt further spraying in Santa Cruz County pending an environmental review.

"We believe that all parties got a fair trial and we're gratified that Judge Burdick agreed with our position," said Jason Heath, an attorney for the County of Santa Cruz, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

But A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, stated in a press release that his department would "aggressively seek an expedited appeal of (Burdick's) ruling. ... The method we are using is the safest, most progressive eradication program available."

The department will appeal because the judge required an 18 to 24 month review that will postpone spraying until a date even later than when the report commissioned by the governor will be finished, said department spokesperson Steve Lyle.

While the governor said the tests will ensure the safety of the chemicals, some say the testing is insufficient.

"The tests are acute toxicity tests, which only test 30 minute exposure," said Nan Wishner, chair of the Albany Integrated Pest Management Task Force. "It's not clear to me how these tests are proposing to address the questions that have been raised about the long-term effects."

According to Lyle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is contracting the acute toxicity testing to a private lab in Texas.

But Helen Kozoriz, a member of Stop the Spray, said that the testing should be done by an agency not hired by the government.

"I think it needs to be a completely independent review," Kozoriz said. "I think that's the only way we can get an honest assessment."

Aerial spraying against the light brown apple moth in Berkeley was scheduled to begin on August 1.

While the governor's announcement will delay spraying, the decision to continue a lawsuit against the state by Berkeley and surrounding cities rests on the results of a possible appeal of Burdick's tentative ruling.

According to acting City Attorney Zach Cowan, the city's lawsuit will still continue if an appeal is filed.

However, if the court dismisses the state's appeal, Berkeley's lawsuit will become unnecessary.

Berkeley's lawsuit asks to delay spraying until an environmental review is completed. If an environmental review is conducted for Santa Cruz, it will also apply to Berkeley.

"The state is not going to treat one county differently from another," Cowan said.

Although the governor stated that he is confident that the additional tests will reassure California residents that the pesticide is safe, some Berkeley residents disagree.

"(The tests) are definitely not satisfactory," Kozoriz said. "There's no way (the tests) can prove long-term safety for health effects.


Contact Mai Fung at [email protected]

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