The discovery of an invasive pest known as the Oriental fruit fly has prompted a quarantine for 85 square miles of Florida's Miami-Dade County, and an aerial pesticide spray is now under consideration to save the $700 million in crops.
"It’s ludicrous we haven’t already begun aerial spraying," one grower told The Miami Herald
. "If this thing isn’t controlled, you’ll destroy a county."
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam explained to a crowd of roughly 100 farmers on Monday that such spraying wouldn’t eradicate larvae currently burrowed in fruits and vegetables. Thus, the government would continue with pheromone and insecticide-laced traps until further notice.
He called the fruit fly invasion "by far the largest outbreak we’ve had in this state’s history," and said that the department is drawing on knowledge obtained during the California invasion in 1989 and Hillsborough County invasion in 1997.
"They will cut and paste the protocol they have for Malathion in California and give it to us," Putnam said.
Organic farmers expressed concern that the aerial pesticide Malathion — which the EPA has approved for pest control in residential areas — could make them lose their organic status for three years if introduced to their land.
"The only product considered for aerial spraying — should there be one — is GF-120, an insecticide certified for use in organic farming," said Putnam's office in response. It added that, "Organic growers may continue to use GF-120, which is approved for organic use, and organic grower status will not be compromised."
A total of 159 flies have been found so far in the current South Florida outbreak, although only one has been found since the agricultural emergency was announced Sept. 15. The quarantine is set to expire January 18, so long as fly levels decrease.
About eight tons of fruits and vegetables have been destroyed so far in relation to the outbreak, which has affected a number of crops, including papaya, tomatoes, and dragon fruit, Newsweek reported
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