Sharpshooter spraying off target

a California Certified Nurseryman and president of Living Resources Company

The glassy-winged sharpshooter, which spreads Pierce’s disease, is a serious pest for California’s grape industry. The sharpshooter has invaded Sacramento County and has resulted in applications of toxic pesticides to urban residential properties. Sacramento County’s agricultural commissioner is leading local residents to believe they have no choice but to submit to pesticide application. That just isn’t true. Agricultural commissioners from the major grape-growing regions of Northern California—Napa and Sonoma counties—are offering urban residents organic alternatives to toxic pesticides.

Sacramento County’s agricultural officials have stated repeatedly that if a sharpshooter is found on a property, officials will spray with toxic pesticides, even over the objection of the resident. To date, no one with a sharpshooter discovered on his or her property has objected. But, if someone does object, we will have forced spraying of toxic pesticides in Sacramento County.

Should we be concerned about forced pesticide applications to a few neighborhoods? County agricultural officials are using three pesticides—Sevin (carbaryl), Merit (imidicloprid) and Tempo (cyfluthrin)—to control the sharpshooter. All have health and environmental risks. In humans, acute effects of carbaryl exposure include muscle weakness, dizziness, sweating, headache, salivation, nausea, diarrhea, slurred speech, loss of coordination and difficulty breathing. Carbaryl exhibits neurotoxicity, can cause a variety of behavioral effects and suppresses several functions of the immune system. Recent studies link household use of carbaryl with an increased risk of cancer. Carbaryl is highly toxic to bees, beneficial insects, fish and birds and is considered a potential groundwater contaminant as well as a hazardous air pollutant.

Our county agricultural officials are not addressing sensitive groups of people, such as children; individuals with health concerns; or organic farms, gardens and landscapes. Their health and economic welfare is at risk when toxic chemicals are applied.

Following these pesticide applications, property owners can expect to deal with more pest problems on their own. The county pesticide applications will kill beneficial insects that help manage a variety of pests. With these natural controls removed, pest populations could become serious problems.

If you want to prevent forced spraying, you need to act now. Tell the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Agricultural Commissioner Frank Carl that you strongly object to forced spraying. Demand that the county adopt a program similar to those of Napa and Sonoma counties, which offer organic alternatives to forced pesticide applications.