Public Comment

Commentary: Spraying Provides More Questions Than Answers

By Helen Kozoriz
Friday February 29, 2008

Thank you for printing the article “Assembly Resolutions Attack Moth Spraying” by Judith Scherr. Shocked and outraged at the proposed plan by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to conduct aerial spraying of the pesticide CheckMate on Bay Area communities beginning Aug. 1, I felt compelled to attend the Berkeley City Council meeting last night to find out for myself what is really going on. 

I must admit, after hearing from the various representatives from the CDFA, Department of Environmental Hazards and Public Health, I was left with more questions than answers. Sitting in an audience of like-minded individuals, it was obvious I was not the only one who was baffled by the arguments put forth in favor of eradicating the Light Brown Apple Moth by dousing our community with a pesticide that has not been tested for long-term effects on humans, animals or the environment. 

When asked by a council member to explain why 600 people became ill after the spraying of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last year, the official from the CDFA attributed it to possible allergies or flu and dismissed the notion that it could be a direct result of exposure to pesticide. And what about all those dead cats, birds and bees? 

Also troubling is the response from the fellow who works for the Department of Public Health. When asked by Mayor Tom Bates if he would approve of aerial spraying on his own family, the man would not give a simple “yes or no” response until pressed. Nor would he guarantee that the product is 100 percent safe for the human population which includes those most vulnerable; the young, old, infirm, asthmatic and chemically sensitive. 

I also noted the claim put forth by the CDFA that they have consulted with various scientists and agencies around the world which includes New Zealand where the LBAM was inadvertently imported from, who conducted their own eradication efforts. What the gentleman doesn’t tell you is this: on the website you will find The People’s Inquiry, a group formed in New Zealand after their own Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry conducted spraying to eradicate three moths—the white spotted tussock moth, the painted apple moth and the asian gypsy moth claiming the pesticide (in this case Foray 48B) was safe. Communities there felt their health concerns were not appropriately addressed and thus the group was formed. The spraying that took place over a period from 1996 to 2004 resulted in numerous reports of ill health. A Brief History of the People’s Inquiry explains that in spite of evidence resulting from the spray and several university based studies identifying adverse health effects “all requests for an official inquiry or review into the impacts and effects of the spraying programs were denied. It was decided the only avenue left was for the community to hold its own Inquiry.” 

Last night, the fellow from the Department of Environmental Hazards claimed CheckMate is safe. Why should I trust this man with my health who took the advice of New Zealand officials involved in a program which failed to protect it’s own citizenry? And there are other parallels to be drawn. For example, a decision was made by the CDFA to declare an “emergency” thereby allowing spraying without the involvement of the community at all. An environment impact report will be completed after the decision has already been made. 

What is plainly obvious to me after attending last night’s meeting and listening to the hearing on KPFA this morning from the meeting in Oakland on the same evening, is the citizens of the Bay Area are uniformly united in their opposition to this reckless, irresponsible plan put forth by the CDFA who are apparently more closely aligned with protecting the economic interests of agribusiness over public health and our environment. I think many people would much rather choose to live with this tiny moth than suffer the indignities being forced upon us by the powers that be, if given a choice in the first place! 

Finally, I applaud all people involved with trying to stop the aerial spraying in the Bay Area, which includes the Berkeley City Council. Special thanks to Dona Spring who drafted the initial resolution against it which was approved last night.  


Helen M. Kozoriz is an Oakland resident.