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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on Pesticides

Pesticides have not been my highest concern in this community. As I've stated previously, I'm much more interested in civil liberties and human rights than pesticides. But I find myself writing another column on pesticides in Davis--partly out of the fact that this is a slow period with the City Council on vacation, but partly out of concern for the process itself.

There was a good debate on the use of pesticides in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday. On one side were three entomologists from UC Davis and on the other side, a couple of activists Jack Milton and Jim Norton.

I find it interesting first of all that Milton, who is a math professor at UC Davis is indentified as only being a member of an anti-spraying group. I don't know if that matters or not for his credibility, but it was interesting nonetheless.

The real point here comes down to this blurb at the bottom:

"Rick Roush, Bob Washino and Mike Parrella are all members of the entomology department at UC Davis. Parrella and Washino also serve on the board of trustees for the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District."

The authors of this piece are all entomologists from UC Davis. I find that interesting because I've been told (I need to finish my research before I'm willing to declare) that the entomology department receives a large percentage of their grants from chemical manufacturing companies and that this department tends to be very pro-pesticide use. I do not know enough about the field to know if entomology as a field is generally predisposed to beng pro-pesticide use or if there are debates within the field about the use of chemicals to kill insect populations.

The second interesting thing in that blurb is that both Parrella and Washino also serve on the board of trustees for the Mosquito and Vector Control District. So we have two entomologists who would seemingly know a lot about the use of pesticides serving on a board of trustees of a district that makes the determination of whether or not pesticides should be used. That makes perfect sense to me.

But here again is where I get into the foggy area where I just do not know enough. If you have two researchers who are reliant on grants from chemical manunfacturers in order to do your research, and those people are responsible for the decision as to whether those same chemicals are used, is this not at least potentially a problem?

Everything that Roush, Parrella, and Washino is telling us might be true. I've heard similar things from people who do not receive grants from the chemical industry. But the process here concerns me, just as the fact that an unelected body could have authority over an elected body disturbed me two weeks ago.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting