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Organic Crops Contaminated By West Nile Spraying

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2007) At least one farm in Sacramento, California, has been contaminated with aerial spraying of pesticides to control mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus (WNv). This claim is verified by lab results released Monday, which were carried out by an independent lab commissioned by a group against aerial spraying.

Insecticides were sprayed across 55,000 acres north of the American River from July 30 to August 1. At least one organic farm in Citrus Heights was covered with the chemicals.

Organic food is supposed to be grown without relying on synthetic chemical pesticides. Organic farmers are required by the National Organic Standards to prevent contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant and animal nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.

“The district’s spray-everything attitude put my business and health at risk,” organic farmer Steven Zien said in a statement.

The area is home to 375,000 residents and many are angry as well as concerned about possible health effects. Pesticides most commonly used across the country for mosquito control are neurotoxic and have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. Given the limited efficacy of adulticidal sprays (pesticides meant to target adult mosquitoes), it becomes even more important to recognize the public health hazards associated with widespread pesticide exposure.

“The district hasn’t taken enough precautions to protect the public from exposures to these pesticides,” said Paul Schramski, state director of the Sacramento-based Pesticide Watch.

Sacramento health officials have said that the chemicals sprayed were at low concentrations and not harmful to human health. However, aerial spraying for mosquito control is widely considered by experts to be the least effective and most risky response to this important public health concern. There is no credible evidence that spraying pesticides used to kill adult mosquitoes reduce or prevent WNv incidents or illnesses. A court settlement on April 12, 2007, affirmed that health concerns are real in a recent lawsuit against New York City. The settlement agreement stated that the pesticides sprayed might indeed be dangerous to human health as well as to the natural environment.

At least four people have contracted the virus in Sacramento and Yolo counties this year, according to the pest district. Statewide, 120 people in 21 counties have had confirmed cases of West Nile this year. Seven deaths have been reported in California, equaling the total from last year, according to a state web site that provides information about the virus. Less than 1 percent of those who contract the virus experience serious symptoms.

Source: Associated Press

TAKE ACTION: For responsible, safer and smarter control of mosquitoes and vector-borne diseases in your community see Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Activist page at www.beyondpesticides.org/mosquito/activist/index.htm.


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