California Groups and Cities Tell State: Abandon Apple Moth Eradication Program

Agency disregards public's right to know


Erin Tobin, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700
Paul S. Towers, Pesticide Watch, (916) 216-1082
Debbie Friedman, Mothers of Marin Against the Spray, (415) 297-4985

A coalition of California cities and health and environmental groups told the state today that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) should abandon its attempt to eradicate the light brown apple moth in Northern and Central California. The groups said that eradicating the moth is neither feasible nor necessary, and that the eradication program threatens public health and the environment.

“There are such enormous holes in CDFA’s argument for the apple moth program that the agency has no justification for proceeding with it,” said Nan Wishner of Stop the Spray East Bay. “We call on CDFA to end this unsafe, unnecessary, ineffective and costly program now.”

“The CDFA’s determination to spend over ninety million tax dollars annually on a program without sound scientific merit is unconscionable,” added Debbie Friedman, Chair of Mothers of Marin Against the Spray, “particularly now, when schools and vital services are facing drastic cuts.”

In a 26-page letter criticizing the CDFA’s draft environmental impact report (DEIR) on the program, the coalition, represented by Earthjustice, said that the DEIR omits critical information on the program’s potential public health and environmental effects, the locations in which pesticides will be used, the complete contents of those pesticides, and alternatives to eradication.

“CDFA’s total disregard for the public’s right to know flies in the face of California law,” said Erin Tobin of Earthjustice. “We have a right to know what this misguided program will expose us to, where we will be exposed, and why.”

“CDFA continues to force a laundry list of bad practices down the throats of Californians,” said Paul S. Towers, State Director of Pesticide Watch. “The message from farmers, scientists and elected officials is clear: splats, goos and sprays don’t belong in California.”

The eradication program would include aerial spraying and ground application of moth pheromones, application of the carcinogenic pesticide permethrin to telephone poles and trees, and ground spraying of the pesticides Bacillus thuringiensis and Spinosad. The program would affect the nine Bay Area counties, and Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties as well.

The Earthjustice letter challenges assertions in the DEIR that the moth is new to California and that it is spreading and destructive. The letter says the DEIR fails to address the pesticides’ impact on honeybees, butterflies, fish and shellfish, as well as the potential effects of pesticide drift. If CDFA does not abandon the ill-advised eradication program, the letter concludes, the agency must at least withdraw the program’s flawed DEIR and submit a revised one that addresses those flaws. 

The coalition includes Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates, Our Children’s Earth, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Pesticide Action Network North America, Pesticide Watch, Play Not Spray, Center for Environmental Health, Stop the Spray East Bay, Mothers Advocating Against the Spray, Mothers of Marin Against the Spray, and the city of Albany. 

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