Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Apple Moth Update
SONOMA CO.: OBJECTIONS RAISED TO APPLE MOTH TWIST TIES IN SONOMA VALLEY
SANTA ROSA (BCN)
Tue, 08 Jul 2008
Sonoma Valley residents presented their concerns this morning to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about the application of pheromone-infused twist ties in trees and shrubs to prevent the spread of the light brown apple moth.
Two of the moths were found within a mile of each other in February and April, and the area is under state and federal quarantines that restrict the movement of plants and crops.
Most of the 28 people who spoke said they are concerned about the toxicity of the pheromone in the twist ties and the environmental and health consequences, especially to children. The twist ties would be in place for at least two moth life cycles or about 90 days.
The synthetic pheromone mimics that of the female moth and prevents the male moths from mating. The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last moth it has postponed plans for aerial spraying to eradicate the moth in Bay Area communities, but there may still be aerial spraying in more remote rural agricultural areas. The state plans to release large numbers of sterilized, infertile insects next year so the wild moth population cannot reproduce.
The application of the twist ties within a 15-square mile area is on hold until the state Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determine whether there are endangered species living near a creek in that area. That determination is expected within a month.
Grape grower Ned Hill asked the state Department of Food and Agriculture to review the quarantine that has affected 2,500 acres of vineyards in the twist tie zone. He said grape growers are now inclined to use synthetic and organic chemicals more than they normally would to protect their crop.
Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, said the quarantine poses a major risk to the county's agriculture. He said the twist ties are a preferred alternative to spraying and similar pheromone-based methods are used in organic agriculture.
Opponents of the twist tie application, many of them members of Bay Area counties' Stop the Spray organizations, questioned whether the light brown apple moth is a real threat. They said the moth has been in California between 30-50 years with no major crop destruction and state agricultural officials were overreacting to its presence.
They said the pheromone is the same chemical that was to be included in the spray that caused illnesses in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last year and they accused the Department of Food and Agriculture of disseminating misinformation.
Mike De Lay, coordinator of the Coalition of California Cities to Stop the Spray, called the twist tie program "false and a farce."
"We want the program eliminated," he said.
Supervisor Valerie Brown, whose district includes Sonoma Valley, noted some residents plan to refuse placement of the twist ties on their properties.
John Connell, director of the Department's Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services, said the plan is to place 250 twist ties per acre and that if enough of the residents of the 240 homes in the affected area refuse, the state can get a warrant to install them.
He said the danger of doing nothing could lead to some residents buying and over-using pesticides on their own to treat damage to their plants.
"If you wait until the damage is done, you waited too long," he said regarding the twist tie program. State agricultural officials say there are 2,000 host plants and 250 crops susceptible to damage from the light brown apple moth.
The supervisors stated the twist tie application is preferable to aerial and ground spraying and several of them asked the Department of Food and Agriculture to review the existing quarantine.
Connell said the quarantine "is draconian in some respects" but is necessary to prevent the moth's presence from spreading.
(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. In the interest of timeliness, this story is fed directly from the Associated Press newswire and may contain occasional typographical errors.)
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Concern over moth twist ties sparks hearing
Supervisor Brown calls for public meeting to discuss neighbors' safety worries
By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Monday, July 7, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.
Sonoma Valley residents and state health and farm officials will appear before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to discuss neighbors' concerns about the safety of special twist ties that are used to battle the light brown apple moth.
The 8-inch-long ties contain a synthetic pheromone designed to attract and confuse male apple moths, an insect from Australia that state and federal agriculture officials say poses a threat to California's crops and native plants.
In two Sonoma Valley neighborhoods where two moths were found earlier this year, some residents have refused to allow the twist ties on their properties. The concerns prompted Supervisor Valerie Brown, who represents the area, to schedule the 9 a.m. public hearing.
"We hoped we would be able to ask questions and get information," Brown said.
As for the safety of the twist ties, she said, "I haven't been convinced that there's any toxic effect."
But Suzanne Gitti-Ring, a resident in one of the quarantine areas, said she remains concerned that the twist ties could have adverse health effects.
"You can't take that chance with your children," said Gitti-Ring, who plans to attend Tuesday's meeting.
The apple moth's existence in California was confirmed in early 2007, and since then it has been found in most Bay Area counties and south to Monterey.
After the discovery of two moths in the Sonoma Valley earlier this year, the state this spring declared a 15-square-mile quarantine area extending from western Sonoma north to Eldridge.
Residents in the quarantine area are prohibited from taking plants and other "host materials" off their properties. Agricultural growers are required to allow trapping and inspections to show that their crops are free of the moths. The area includes about 2,500 acres of vineyards.
The state had proposed a controversial plan to conduct aerial spraying of a synthetic pheromone over other parts of the Bay Area, but not Sonoma County.
Last month officials ruled out aerial spraying over cities and said they instead will release millions of sterile moths in an attempt to disrupt the moth's breeding cycle and eradicate the pest.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.