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Medfly Confusion at the Farmers’ Markets

Medfly-proof netting over the produce

You’ve seen the quarantine signs, the netting draped over fruits and vegetables-that-are-really-fruits, such as tomatoes and avocados, and the fans propelling streams of air over some produce displays. What does it all mean?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with the fruit that growers bring into Los Angeles, so don’t stop buying. The problem is the L.A. area itself.  Late last October, Mediterranean fruit flies turned up in eastern Santa Monica, so the California Department of Food and Agriculture imposed a quarantine from Pacific Palisades to just north of LAX and east to La Cienega. This affects many local markets, including Santa Monica, Culver City, Mar Vista, Playa Vista and Pacific Palisades. (See this map for boundaries.)

The city is not currently aswarm to a biblical degree, but we need to prevent a true infestation, which would be devastating to both commercial and backyard growing. Hence the netting, which keeps the pests from laying eggs in the fruit, and the use of fans on display tables to create enough air turbulence to prevent insects from alighting in the first place. Farmers can use either method to protect pristine crops brought from outside the quarantine area and to prevent potentially carrying infected produce back to the farm. If it were the other way around — if there were something wrong with the fruit in situ — the farmer wouldn’t be able to bring it to us in the first place.

Fans blow air across the citrus.

Even if there are no further sightings, the quarantine will be around at least through summer. Here’s what you need to do to help manage the situation: When shopping, be sure to replace the netting over the “host material” (fruits and vegetables). And don’t take purchased or homegrown fruit out of the quarantine area — Medfly and other pests can hitch a ride on produce.

This next part is going to be ecologically counter-intuitive: DO NOT compost host material. To dispose, either run it through the garbage disposal or double-bag it (!) before placing in the trash. This is one of those times when we need to weigh the risks, and for now, according to the CDFA and USDA, the quarantine trumps plastic.

Amelia Saltsman is the author of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

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4 Responses for “Medfly Confusion at the Farmers’ Markets”

    • jan knep says:

      oh my, another CDFA money grabber/pesticide industry money boondoggle. Medfly has been in this country for decades and countless millions of taxpayer money has been harvested by corporate ag and chemical ag – a travesty. Every year there are new and repetitions of the “emergency quarantine” bug of the year to steal millions of taxpayers’ dollars to advantage the trade of big corporate farms allied with pesticide industries (the same in many cases, like Stewart Resnick who is buying up as much land as he can and owns a public water aquifer and dines and sullies Diane Feinstein’s legislation who sprayed us here in Central California). Who loses? – The American consumer, the environment, the small farmer, the indepedent organic farmer, consumer choice.

  1. RobertW says:

    THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE (CDFA) IS A DISHONEST AGENCY.

    CDFA has said that they have eradicated this pest nearly thirty times. But that is like saying they have quit smoking 30 times, they never really have, but they take taxpayer money every time. Many and most of these programs are just excuses to milk money from our taxpayer funds which CDFA top management feels should be theirs.

    CDFA is currently trying to initiate an eradication program for the entire state of California for a moth (Light Brown Apple Moth) that hasn’t done any damage for the near half century that it has been here. But CDFA is tired of small scale. They are going after about $100 million per year of our money and if their other programs are any indication, they will attempt to milk it for 30 years or more.

    See: http://www.losangeleschronicle.com/articles/view/76798

    CDFA can’t take the money out for themselves directly. But they give the money to large insider chemical corporations in the form of huge contracts for pesticides that are unnecessary. And then they have their means to get their share through all types of crony relationships, particularly after they leave the agency.

    Kawamura, the secretary of the CDFA, actually sprayed pesticides directly onto children IN CITIES in Northern California even though they were category 3 toxins. CDFA told the parents that the products were non-toxic and perfectly safe. Can you imagine the parents of the little 11-month-old perfectly healthy boy who went into respiratory arrest after the spray and his life was saved by an expert team of doctors at the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula. Can you even imagine!

    Anyway, that’s a quick update. Remember that most pesticides can be avoided simply by learning how to actually farm, rather than blanket bombing the land with chemical toxins and then harvesting from the devastation. If multiple crops are planted within proximity to each other with knowledge of which insects and how many are attracted to each crop, then the mix of insects will control themselves. The planet already provided the formula for that balance.

    Best to all

    RW

  2. […] ‘Medfly Confusion’ Check out Amelia Saltsmans‘ post about the Medfly quarantine at area farmers markets. var addthis_pub = 'kcrw'; var […]

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