Public Comment

Commentary: A Response from Pesticide Action Network

By Dr. Margaret Reeves and Kathryn Gilje
Thursday May 08, 2008 - 10:40:00 AM

An April 25 commentary in the Daily Planet (“No Compromise On Apple Moth Pesticide”) misrepresented our organization’s position. We’d like to clarify our mission and the position of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) regarding the light brown apple moth (LBAM). 

PAN has been working for more than 25 years to stop the use of hazardous pesticides and promote sustainable, socially just alternatives. Over the past quarter century we’ve helped eliminate or replace dangerous pesticides with safer alternatives. We have successfully supported international treaties and agreements designed to phase out these chemicals around the world. PAN works with more than 600 organizations in 90 countries to get hazardous pesticides out of our bodies, off our plates, away from our children and out of our environment. 

On LBAM: PAN opposes aerial spraying of the pheromone-based product CheckMate due to the availability of ground-level alternatives, the lack of evidence that aerial application is effective, and the unknown potential for health damage. PAN is calling on the USDA and California Department of Food and Agriculture to increase investment in monitoring and other preventative measures, so that extraordinary control measures such as aerial spraying of residential communities are unnecessary. We also support intensified research and implementation of ecological pest management (EPM) approaches. 

PAN has insisted on transparent discussions with communities to determine: realistic estimates of potential damage from LBAM, the nature of all ingredients (active and inert) in pest control products being used or considered, the efficacy of these control measures and the potential health risks associated with these measures. And we call for transparency about the role of trade agreements in USDA’s insistence on LBAM eradication in California. (See for more information, links to scientific articles, updates and resources about LBAM.) 

Tragically, in California and around the world, millions of farmworkers, farmers and their families face daily exposure to extremely hazardous pesticides applied aerially and otherwise to the fields in which they work, on their communities, around schools, and near (or in) their homes. 

In California, in particular, support is currently needed to ban chlorpyrifos, a dangerous nerve poison used throughout the state in agriculture and in nurseries. Chlorpyrifos, linked with learning disabilities, acute poisonings, and other health impacts, is part of the state’s LBAM plan. We also urge you to oppose registration of the pesticide methyl iodide in California, a drift-prone carcinogen currently under consideration for use in strawberries and other crops. For more information, please contact: The Planet commentary also criticized the Healthy Schools Act of 2000. PAN is proud to be part of Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR), the coalition that won that ground-breaking legislation and its extension to private daycare facilities in 2006. The bills CPR supported aimed to ban the worst pesticides from use in schools, and that remains our goal. Meanwhile, CPR has campaigned to persuade some of the state’s largest school districts to eliminate all hazardous pesticides. The Oakland and San Francisco School Districts have already achieved this goal, and others are on the way. Readers interested in the Healthy Schools Campaign should contact Californians for Pesticide Reform for more information: 

Finally, there is some confusion about biocontrol, including use of pheromones, Bt and other substances that can be part of responsible ecological pest management. Bt, for example, has been used effectively in organic farming for decades, though we oppose using it for aerial application. For more information on the New Zealand illnesses reported from aerial spraying of Foray that was mentioned in the Planet commentary, please see the report by PAN New Zealand at 


Dr. Margaret Reeves is senior scientist and Kathryn Gilje is executive director of San Francisco-based Pesticide Action Network North America.