I know, I've been AWOL again. Too many weird things going on in my life these days to keep up with a journal on a regular basis. I don't think I have any regular readers, anyway, so its probably no big deal.
But I did find a topic important enough to get me writing a bit. Its that blasted light brown apple moth, also known as LBAM.
For those of you who aren't in the know, let me explain. According to California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA, another acronym!), LBAM is an invasive pest that is going to eat every tree, bush, and head of lettuce in Monterey County if it isn't stopped. OK, I'm exaggerating. They say the damages could potentially be in the millions of dollars, but I'm not convinced they're not exaggerating, either. Maybe, maybe not.
In an attempt to eradicate the moth, the California Department of Food and Agriculture decided to spray Marina, Seaside, Monterey, Pacific Grove and most of Pebble Beach with a pheromone. A pheromone is basically a naturally occurring aphrodisiac, secreted by female moths, that makes the male moths horny. By applying it everywhere, the male moths won't be able to tell the difference between a female LBAM and a leaf or a blade of grass, so it will most likely screw the leaf instead of the girl moth and prevent any baby LBAMs from being born. This, they say, will bring an end to the species in the region without resorting to toxic chemicals and without actually killing anything.
I gotta say that this is a whole lot better than getting sprayed with a pesticide called Sevin mixed with diesel oil. That's what my neighborhood got hit with when I lived in Oregon a quarter century ago. It was gypsy moths they were afraid of then.
But that's not to say I have faith in the government to do us no harm. Maybe its things like DDT, MTBE, a collapsing bridge, Iraq, and similar such things that make me suspicious any time the government says "trust us." I remember Ronald Reagan's words "Trust but verify." (Actually I recall that Reagan was actually quoting Gorbachev, but since Gorbachev didn't speak English, Reagan was merely passing the concept along. But that's not important right now.)
So CDFA people came to town before the spraying to answer people's questions. Except they couldn't answer them. I called the 800 number myself to ask if the product, called CheckMate, had ever been sprayed on people before. Nobody could answer my question! I later learned it had never been sprayed on an urban area, nor had it ever been tested on humans because the FDA prohibits testing on humans. Apparently FDA allows spraying on humans, as long as it isn't a test.
I'm not too concerned about the pheromone itself, but the manufacturer says the pheromone is "microencapsulated" in, well, they won't tell us in what because its a trade secret. It seems to me that if you're going to spray a product over the heads of 100,000 people we ought to know what is in it. I assume the stuff is patented, so its not as if someone else can just steal the idea. There outta be a law which says that a company can't hide behind "proprietary information" when public health and safety is an issue.
Apparently, the product (which is diluted with plain water) is sprayed in such a fine mist that it doesn't even leave any apparent moisture on the ground. I know, I watched the plane go over our house half a dozen times on the night of September 10th and nothing appeared on the ground, or on our car windshields. If its that fine, then most likely it was inhaled by a lot of folks (many of whom were walking down the street oblivious to the plane overhead) before the stuff hit the ground.
It may very well be that the stuff is completely harmless. But please, don't ask 100,000 people to accept that on faith alone. Just tell us what the ingredients are so that independent scientists and health officials and laymen alike can assess the hazard and decide if it is appropriate. And please, do it before the next spray day, which is scheduled for sometime in mid October.