Nan Wishner
To Spray or Not to Spray

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) plan to use aerial pesticide spraying in Bay Area counties to attempt to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth has resulted in an outpouring of protest regarding the state’s right to spray without the consent of those affected and without assessing long-term adverse health and environmental effects.

Nan Wishner, Chair of the City of Albany’s Integrated Pest Management Task Force and vocal opponent of the proposed spraying, will summarize the issues, provide her perspective on a more healthy and effective approach to addressing invasive species, and bring us up to date on the latest actions from the CDFA and the groups trying to stop the spraying.

Nan Wishner began by pointing out that pesticides only began being used after WWII. The people who had been making chemicals for use in the war effort were looking for other ways to keep their factories going, and pesticides turned out to be a use for their products. As a member of the Silent Spring generation, Nan knows how the unintended consequences of such chemical warfare can get out of hand. She got involved with the City of Albany Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Task Force when the city proposed to start spraying Round Up on a plyaing field near her home. She was already on Albany's IPM Task Force when the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) issue came up. At that time her mayor asked her to research the subject, so Nan did.

The LBAM was first discovered in this area by a retired Berkeley Entomologist. It's about a quarter of an inch long when grown, and probably arrived in this country from Australia or New Zealand on imported plant or fruit material. In 2007 George Gomez, an Undersecretary in the Californian Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) declared an emergency need to eradicate the LBAM. Aerial spraying for the pest began in Monterey and Santa Cruz Countys that year. Spraying is set to expand into Northern San Mateo, San Francisco, Southeastern Marin, western Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties this year. Spraying is done from airplanes flying at altitudes between 500 and 800 feet.

The spray used last year was synthetic LBAM female pheromones, and other or “inert” ingredients many of which are toxic. The spray used last year was dispersed in microscopic plastic capsules. It is unknown what carrier will be used for the spray this year; the state is investigating four products that use different carrier: microcapsules, plastic flakes, and waxy “goo.” . The general characteristics of the pesticide chosen for this year are expected to be the same – synthetic moth pheromone plus “inert” ingredients which are normally not disclosed by the manufacturer though the state has said these ingredients will be disclosed for the LBAM program.

After the spraying people complained of adverse health effects. To date 643 people have complained of symptoms ranging from extreme asthma attacks to skin rashes and a metallic tasting sore throat. There was also a large die off of seabirds, and some pets have died. There is concern that other problems could develop as the spray may bioaccumulate its way up the food chain. For example, it is already known that microcapsules, being the same size as pollen grains, could end up being collected by bees.

STOPTHESPRAY.ORG was created to organize the victims and stop the spraying from happening. Nan is asking everybody to visit and sign the petition. The website also has a lot of information to help you get informed on the subject. In particular, many of the scientific papers and other factual information about the spray can be found if you visit . The campaign also needs many kinds of help, and links for that are also at People who wish to donate tax free to the media and education work of Stop the Spray East Bay can do so through the Pesticide Watch Education Fund, 1107 9th St., Suite 601, Sacramento CA 95814. Note “Stop the Spray East Bay media fund” on your check.

During Q&A a number of interesting things came up:

Birds died perhaps because surfactants in the spray de-oiled their feathers, causing drowning and/or hypothermia.

Organic certification is not affected by the spraying, but that's mostly because the USDA, which supports the spraying, houses the National Organics Program (NOP) is in charge of Organic certification. This type of pesticide, applied in this way, would not normally be used in organic agriculture.

LBAMs eat the leaves of trees, and do not go after the fruit. They may scar it sometimes, but nowhere near as bad as codling moths that penetrate the fruit. Also, LBAM are delicious to spiders, birds and other predators.

California wine grape growers use more pesticides on their grapes than any other crop in the state.

They aren't scheduled to spray in Santa Clara County right now. They are scheduled to put pheromone/pesticide goo on telephone poles and places like that. The “goo” contains permethrin, an insecticide that is carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and highly toxic to honeybees.

For more information, please visit

Tian Harter