Yesterday might have been the beginning of the end for the California Department of Agriculture’s Light Brown Apple Moth Spraying program. First, a Santa Cruz County judge ruled that the emergency exemption under which the program was being carried out was invalid (meaning they must prepare an Environmental Impact Report before resuming spraying in Santa Cruz County), then the Governor, bowing to public pressure, suspended all spraying at least until mid-August in order to allow some rudimentary tests to be carried out on the safety of the spray.
Unsurprisingly, the Ag Department’s science-free approach didn’t get far in the courtroom. The judge demanded actual evidence that the moth had caused or would cause serious damage – and when they were unable to provide ANY evidence that the moth has caused ANY damage in Santa Cruz County (the most heavily infested county in the state) or anywhere else in California, the judge ruled they had not demonstrated the existence of an emergency.
The Department of Agriculture promises to immediately appeal this ruling, but with the Governor weighing in to suspend the spraying, it looks to us like the program is falling apart. And some very powerful agri-business folks ain’t happy. Not only has the Dept. of Ag fumbled the ball with respect to one (probably not very important) moth, it’s starting to look like this episode may result in new laws requiring future pest eradication efforts to be based on real science and to involve serious public input and oversight.
In other words, the Dept.’s high-handed, wolf-crying approach to the Light Brown Apple Moth, which has already cost them their credibility, may also end up costing the Dept. and industry some very real power – and these aren’t guys who like having their privileges revoked. But what were they expecting? We know these are people who are used to getting their way, but did they actually imagine they could get away with spraying chemicals over large urban areas when they had NO solid evidence that the moth posed a serious threat to anything? That’s not just arrogance, that’s world-class arrogance.
Meanwhile, to get a flavor for how things are going for the Dept. of Ag and the Ag industry in the court of public opinion, take a look at the rapidly proliferating LBAM videos on YouTube.
Here are a couple of the best: