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Court Halts Spraying in California, Ordering Environmental Review

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2008) On May 12, Judge Robert O’Farrell ruled on a lawsuit brought by Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment (HOPE), finding that California’s Agriculture Secretary, A.G. Kawamura, violated the law when the state aerially sprayed untested, ‘secret’ pesticides on cities, children and wildlife. Judge O’Farrell then ordered the spraying stopped until the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) completes an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

HOPE attorney Alexander Henson said, “I’m glad that this case will set a precedent requiring government to do the required studies before they spray an unsuspecting populace with untested chemicals.” HOPE Trustee Terrence Zito said, “Since last August HOPE has been saying that spraying people with secret, untested, unwanted pesticides is immoral and illegal. The courts have now twice confirmed that CDFA acted illegally.”

Last month a Santa Cruz County Court ruled that the light brown apple moth (LBAM) was not an immediate threat and delayed aerial spraying of the pesticide, CheckMate (a pheromone-based pesticide with inert ingredients), in order for an EIR to be completed. In his ruling, presiding Judge Paul Burdick said the state did not prove that the invasive light brown apple moth poses an immediate threat to life or property. As a result, an emergency exception to finish the report while the spraying continued was found to be unjustified. (See Daily News of April 28, 2008.)

According to HOPE, the CDFA told the judge they expect the EIR completion in January. Since the state seems to delay spraying from January until June, this should give Health and environment advocates another year to get laws passed to permanently halt aerial spraying and to force the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to use non-aerial spraying and non-toxic solutions such as the use of traps.

HOPE Executive Director David Dilworth said, “This is the second time in 2 weeks a court has convicted Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura, of violating California’s a biggest environmental law, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” HOPE believes that at least 14 other laws were broken in the unnecessary pursuit of eradicating the moth.

CDFA said it will seek an expedited appeal. Mr. Dilworth responded, “Twenty three cities and two counties, dozens of community groups and a Senate Committee have told CDFA to stop; and now two Judges have told CDFA they broke the law, but they remain defiant. That’s the definition of outlaw behavior. What part of ‘No’ doesn’t Governor Schwarzenegger understand?”

Since its detection in February 2007, LBAM has been found and quarantines have been established in the several counties including Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Santa Barbara. Many are concerned about the pesticide application. Aerial spraying for LBAM has resulted in 463 illness reports after spraying began last fall. Another concern is the population of endangered and threatened moths and butterflies that could be affected by the aerial applications. The pesticide CheckMate LBAM-F works as a pheromone that disrupts the mating cycle of the moth. Least toxic alternatives for pest control include the use of pheromones. However, the uncertainty about so-called inert or undisclosed ingredients included in many pesticide formulations remains a serious concern.

Beyond Pesticides advocates for full disclosure of all pesticide product ingredients, including so-called inert ingredients, questions the efficacy of aerial applications of any pesticide that, by their nature, cause unnecessary exposure, and is urging targeted ground efforts only as a last resort.

Source: HOPE Media Release


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