Medfly and Moth Wars

Jan 7, 2010

James R. Carey is used to dissent.

The entomology professor at the University of California, Davis, fervently believes that the Mediterranean fruit fly and light brown apple moth, two exotic and invasive pests, have long been established in California and cannot be eradicated.

Trying to eradicate them, he says, is like "throwing money down a rathole."

Check out the current (Jan. 8th) edition of Science Magazine and read the three-page NewsFocus piece headlined "From Medfly to Moth: Raising a Buzz of Dissent."

This is sure to garner a plethora of comments, concern and criticism. This is about as high-profile as it gets in the scientific community. And this isĀ  not the message that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is trying to get across. (See CDFA's Web site on the light brown apple moth).

Carey, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, just completed a term as the chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy. He also directs a federally funded program on lifespan and aging; the programĀ  just received a $3.4 million grant renewal from the National Institute on Aging.

"James Carey is at it again," began writer Ingfei Chen of Santa Cruz. "In the early 1990s, as a scientific adviser in California's unpopular pesticide-spraying war against the Mediterranean fruit fly, the entomologist vocally charged that the state's program was fundamentally flawed. Bucking conventional wisdom, Carey claimed that the Medfly was already established, defying the eradication attempt."

Fast forward to February 2007 and the discovery in California (Bay Area) of a new invasive pest, the light brown apple moth, a native of Australia.

Aerial spraying of a pheromone resulted in a "red-hot-public ruckus, forcing the state to shift to a plan to release zillions of sterile moths...And once again, Carey has surfaced as a relentless voice of dissent," Chen wrote.

Carey insists it can't be eradicated, that it's here to stay and we ought to focus on pest management, not eradication.

What's next? Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology wants to organize a spring conference "to reexamine the invasive species-policy paradigm from to bottom," Chen wrote.

"The goal," she wrote, "is an open dialogue with major stakeholders," including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and CDFA.

Carey told us today that Parrella plans to meet with him and a group of other entomologists next week to discuss the proposed workshop.

"It would be nice to think we could sit down and discuss things," Parrella told Chen in the Science Magazine article. "It's not us versus them."

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

UC DAVIS ENTOMOLOGIST James Carey believes that the light brown apple moth has long been established in California and cannot be eradicated. He is featured in the Jan. 8 edition of Science Magazine in a NewsFocus piece headlined

James Carey

LIGHT BROWN APPLE MOTH (adult shown) is a native of Australia. Its larvae have voracious appetites and feed on more than 2000 plant species. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Light Brown Apple Moth