Last year, the California Department of Food andAgriculture (CDFA) waltzed into Monterey and Santa Cruz countiesand announced to its citizens that the government needed to spraypesticides above their homes, neighborhoods, playgrounds,businesses and schools. The CDFA had a mandate from the USDA. Notto worry, they said. The spray is safe for you, your babies, yourchildren and your pets. The real danger, the CDFA claimed, was amoth the size of a child’s pinky nail, the light brown apple moth(LBAM). The CDFA told them it was a moth of mass plantdestruction.
The CDFA proceeded to spray. The people trusted. Soon after,hundreds of people reported being ill. Children experiencedanaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions. Over 600 dead birdswashed up on the shores of Monterey Bay. Dogs and cats accidentallyleft outside during the spray died. Fish in private ponds died. Athick yellow foam appeared in local streams. Bees were disorientedor completely disappeared. It might seem inconceivable that ademocratic government like ours would aerially spray its peoplewith harmful chemicals, but that did happen, right here, in our ownstate, supported by our own governor.
The CDFA claimed, as it still does, that all of this had nothingto do with the spray, and made plans to expand the spraying programto include Marin, San Francisco and Oakland. This time, themothers, the children, the farmers, the business owners, the realestate sellers, the Republicans, the Democrats, the doctors, thejournalists and the scientists joined together and objected.Spraying stopped.
Now the CDFA is waltzing into the town of Sonoma, telling usthat they need to eradicate the LBAM. Yet according to one of NewZealand’s largest wineries, “It is not a problem in viticulture atall.” When we speak with experts and look at the scientificliterature globally, we find the LBAM to be of little concern. Wealso learn that it can also never be fully eradicated.
The CDFA now wants to hang hastily EPA-approved bio-pesticidetwist ties—which were not designed nor ever intended to beused in residential neighborhoods in proximity to children—onour private properties. If the CDFA decides to use twist ties, theyneed to inform the owners of all the facts, as were recently statedin the Protection of Citizen and Property Rights Resolution,recently passed in Sonoma on Aug. 12, 2008.
Californians have a choice. We can listen to the governmentassuring us that its tools are perfectly safe or we can take thewiser choice and common-sense approach by supporting SeventhDistrict California congressman Sam Farr, who has recently filed acitizen’s petition with the USDA. The USDA has the authority todowngrade the LBAM’s classification, work with international tradepartners to develop a classification of the LBAM that is consistentwith its status as a minor pest and abort the eradication campaign.Congressman Mike Thompson, former senator Carole Migden, Sen. MarkLeno, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Assemblyman Dave Jones, StateBoard of Equalization’s Betty Yee and former assemblyman John Lairdhave all sent letters to the USDA urging the agency to evaluatethis petition.
With the insect downgraded, we can then free our farmers andgrape growers from the constant threat and fear of quarantines,save hundreds of millions of dollars and save our children fromunnecessary health risks. I know the Sonoma community will thinkclearly and choose wisely.
Sonoma resident Yannick A. Phillips is a marriedmother of four who recently spear-headed a successful campaignagainst the CDFA-USDA’s LBAM eradication program in SonomaCounty.
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