Judge halts moth spraying in Monterey County

Monday, May 12, 2008

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(05-12) 18:42 PDT Monterey -- State agriculture officials plan to appeal a superior court judge's ruling that halts aerial spraying to eradicate the light brown apple moth in Monterey County until an environmental impact report can be completed.

Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O'Farrell ruled today that the discovery of the moth - a pest that is considered a threat to the state's agricultural economy - does not constitute a legal emergency. He ordered the aerial spraying of a moth pheromone pesticide stopped until a report on the environmental effects of the spraying operation can be completed in January.

A.G. Kawamura, state agriculture secretary, said the state Department of Food and Agriculture would appeal the decision immediately, combining it with a similar decision two weeks ago in Santa Cruz County.

"The light brown apple moth infestation is, in fact, an emergency that threatens our nation's food supply and our state's environment," he said in a prepared statement.

The moth species was first detected in Berkeley about a year ago, and specimens have since turned up in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Solano, Napa, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. The state agency plans to spray a synthetic pheromone pesticide over much of the Bay Area this summer in hopes of getting rid of the pest by interrupting its mating cycle.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had halted planned spraying in the 12 counties until Aug. 17 to allow safety tests to be completed.

Michael Cabanatuan

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