THE LIGHT BROWN APPLE MOTH (LBAM) is just the latest of many so-called invasive pests against which the state of California uses pesticides each year. Others include the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly), the Oriental fruit fly, and the Japanese beetle.
Early attempts to control the medfly in the 1980s entailed aerial spraying of malathion, which produced a tidal wave of opposition. The state’s annual medfly “eradication” programs almost every year for the nearly 30 years since then are really a program of annual chemical control for a species that is established in the state. This example makes clear what entomologists know; eradication (100 percent elimination) of a species is nearly impossible. The whole invasive species “industry” is a windfall for pesticide companies, a source of unnecessary and dangerous chemical exposure to communities, and in most cases a poor use of resources. Our tax dollars would be better and more safely spent moving agriculture to a diverse, organic model that grows crops that are more resistant to pest infestations and healthier for consumers.
The LBAM program points to the fear mentality that drives invasive species programs. Estimates of potential damage from the moth were based on inaccurate and outdated information, and a $97 million program was launched to prevent speculative losses due to trade restrictions, not actual crop damage.
Despite opposition from many scientists who say the proposed treatments for LBAM (including ground and aerial spray, release of millions of sterile insects, and other activities), the LBAM program is proceeding without a basis in solid science.
The big losers in invasive species eradication programs are the health and safety ofCalifornia residents and our food supply and environment. The big winners are the pesticide manufacturers.