News FocusInvasion Biology

From Medfly to Moth: Raising a Buzz of Dissent

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Science  08 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5962, pp. 134-136
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5962.134

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In February 2007, a voracious new invasive pest—the light brown apple moth from Australia, dubbed LBAM—was identified in Berkeley, California. The insect's larvae feed on more than 2000 plant species, from apples, grapes, and berries to cypress trees. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) launched a program of aerially spraying a pheromone to disrupt the insect's mating. But those efforts prompted a red-hot public ruckus, forcing the state to shift to a plan to release zillions of sterile moths to achieve the same ends. James Carey of the University of California, Davis, a prominent opponent of California's efforts to eradicate Medflies in the early 1990s, has surfaced once again as a relentless voice of dissent. His core argument is essentially the same. Contrary to the agriculture agencies' view that the moth is a new and vanquishable arrival, he thinks it was established long ago and is too widespread to wipe out. The idea of a long-standing invasion can't be discounted, yet it is hard to prove or disprove. But it is Carey's take-no-prisoners style, as much as his bold scientific interpretations, that has riled agriculture officials from Sacramento to Washington, D.C.

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