The US Department of Agriculture will be withdrawing its application for aerial spraying of pesticides for 1998 at the request of EPA. The application was essentially a duplicate of the application filed in 1997 that allowed the agency to spray malathion to kill infestations of Medflies in Florida.
A USDA spokesman, Nolan Lemon, said that the agency plans to revise and resubmit the application under Section 18 of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
In 1997 USDA received an exemption that allowed it to spray malathion over infested crops in Hillsborough County, Florida. The spraying was highly controversial, and citizen groups protested that the campaign killed beneficial insects and posed significant risks to human health and the environment.
Although the Medfly infestations were eradicated, USDA submitted an application for 1998 to allow for a fast response to any future infestations.
James J. Jones, director of the Registration Division of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, sent a letter to USDA on Dec. 18, 1997, asking the agency to withdraw and revise its application.
"EPA believes it is necessary to redesign the existing exotic fruit fly quarantine regime so that the organophosphate pesticides malathion and diazinon are not utilized so prominently," Jones said in the letter. Jones continued by saying that USDA should also address concerns that were raised during a meeting with the public in Tampa on December 2, 1997.
Denise Kearns, an EPA spokeswoman, said that EPA hopes to see a more comprehensive plan for eradicating future infestations in Florida, such as the plan that has been used successfully in California.
"What we'd like to see is the state of Florida and the USDA come up with a plan that would meet some of the [public's] concerns," said Kearns. "The application had malathion as the prime method of combat, and we'd like to see more of a comprehensive program that would include early detection and less intrusive means to kill the Medfly."