Poisoning People With Pesticides
An area near Sacramento, CA is about to be sprayed with pesticides. There have been several cases of West Nile Virus, and authorities insist that spraying is the only way to get rid of mosquitoes carrying the virus.
A lot of people are disagreeing over whether it’s necessary to spray an entire region with poison. But West Nile can be fatal, so there are valid arguments on both sides.
But this whole situation reminds me of the summer of 2001 in Sonoma County (North of San Francisco). Residents of rural Western Sonoma County were threatened all summer with the prospect of being sprayed with pesticides. And the reason that we might all be sprayed with poison had nothing to do with public health or safety.
We had this threat hanging over our heads all summer because an insect pest might be threatening the profits of the wine industry. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is owned lock stock and barrel by a few wealthy vineyard owners and winemakers.
If pesticides had been sprayed on the entire area, organic farmers would lose their certification and be forced out of business. People with certain health problems would have their lives endangered. And a lot of people just didn’t want their children and pets sprayed with poison.
All of these people were pretty much told to shut the fuck up and quit whining. Millionaire grape growers had spoken. Their prostitutes on the Board of Supervisors dutifully bent over whenever they were summoned by the wine industry.
The insect pest — the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter — was native to Southern California and was coming North on plants sold in nurseries. Some people thought nurseries should inspect all plants being shipped from Southern California so that insect pests wouldn’t be exported. But the nursery industry also has a lot of political clout and they decided that would be too much of a bother.
Grape growers had lots of ways to prevent infestations, but all of these methods would’ve meant a 1% profit reduction and/or would just be too much trouble. For one thing, there’s an ash-like substance that can be sprayed on the grape vines which would keep insects away. But this substance would turn the grape leaves an odd color and tourists wouldn’t go “oooohhh” and “aaahhhhh” as they drove by. No deal.
One way to prevent insect infestations is to have a diversity of crops. Sonoma County agriculture has become almost a mono-culture. In the past few years, longtime Sonoma County farmers have been plowing up their crop fields and chopping down their orchards faster than George W. Bush running to the liquor store. Grapes were the money crop, and now that’s practically all there is.
The more vineyards there are, the more clout the wine industry has. And more vineyards guarantee that any possible future insect pest will be "an emergency."