BTK Biocide Victory 
UPdate Spring 1996

Province halts plan to spray moth pesticide: Agriculture Canada will not be allowed to use BTK in New Westminster because of worries about human health and safety.: Foes relieved
A federal-government plan to kill gypsy moths by spraying pesticide on 20 hectares of New Westminster has been halted by the province’s environmental appeal board.  The board ruled that the potential risks to people and the environment from spraying BTK outweigh any expected benefits the program might have in getting rid of the gypsy moth.  Agriculture Canada has claimed that BTK – a biological agent – poses no danger to people, pets or other animals.
It has been spraying various parts of the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria for 10 years to fight the moth.  In most of those cases, the spraying was opposed by residents.  But until now, the appeal board overruled their objections.  In this week’s decision, panel chair Judith Lee wrote that there is “evidence that BTK use will have some adverse effect and some risk.”  She noted that both those opposing the spraying and Agriculture Canada referred to studies showing that some people, when exposed to the spray, reported symptoms “such as dry, itchy skin; red, burning eyes; dry, sore throat; cough and tightness in the chest — particularly where there was a prior history of allergies.”  Lee also noted that published studies on BTK deal mainly with its short-term effects: “They show no adverse effects.  However, there are almost no studies on long-term effects.”
The other main reason for the panel’s decision, she wrote, is that the government’s spraying program was unlikely to achieve its goal of getting rid of the gypsy moth.  The evidence shows that using BTK ground spray will not effectively treat the area and eradicate the gypsy moth, partly because not all properties in the area were to be sprayed and partly because the spray was unlikely to reach eggs in the upper parts of trees, she wrote.
Monika Auger, one of the residents opposing the spraying in the Sapperton area of New Westminster, welcomed the board’s decision, adding that the use of pesticides to kill harmful insects should be eliminated altogether and traps used instead.  Auger said she and her neighbors are particularly relieved by the board’s decision because there is an elementary school in the spraying area.
Jon Bell, regional biologist for Agriculture Canada, said he was disappointed with the decision, adding that the department is now investigating alternatives to spraying.  “I find the decision disturbing because it is not very science-based,” he said.   One of the alternatives the department may examine is setting more traps to catch the moth.  “We are still in the business of gypsy moth control,” Bell said.  He added that it would be necessary to put out nine insect traps per acre (about 20 per hectare) to hope to get the male moths before they have an opportunity to mate with the females.
Bell reiterated the danger the gypsy moth poses to B.C.’s forests, saying it is important to deal with outbreaks of the pest before they become established.  In the caterpillar stage, the gypsy moth is a voracious feeder and whole forests in the east have been destroyed by it, Bell said.  Last year, the department found eight gypsy moths in a trap near Devoy Street and East 8th Avenue in New Westminster.  Moths were also found in traps near Hope, where a plan for aerially spraying a forest is still going ahead.

For more information on the specific B.C. situation, see the excellent publication prepared by Diane Wharton, July 1995, revised edition, Our Case Against Moth Spraying, by the Society Targeting Overuse of Pesticides.  To obtain this B.C. publication write to STOP, Box 37007, 2930 Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver, B.C. V7N 4M0.  Telephone/fax: 604 980-1860.