New Campaign against Invasive Pests

August 20, 2009 7:31:50 PM PDT
A creepy new ad campaign aims to protect California's 39-billion dollar Ag industry from invasive pests. The pest prevention campaign was launched by the US Department of Agriculture.You could mistake the TV spots for ads for a scary movie. The message from the creepy TV spots - produce shipped or smuggled in from outside the US could harbor dangerous pests.

Barry Bedwell of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League said, "The tag line 'they're here and they're hungry,' along with that image of the little girl morphing into the insects, that will stay with me and hopefully it will stay with the public."

The light brown apple moth is a destructive pest found in some parts of the state but not yet in the Valley. Fresno County Entomologist Dr. Norm Smith says the ad campaign may help educate the public on how pests move around. Smith explained, "Generally its people who bring them. They generally can't fly in by themselves. They need some help. They could be the main culprit bringing them in if they're bringing fruit from their home country or plant material."

An inspection dog named Chelsea recently sniffed out curry leaves in a duffel bag shipped through FedEx from India. Asian citrus psyllids were found on the leaves. The pest carried a greening disease which can devastate Valley citrus.

Barry Bedwell said, "As there is more and more travel the threat continues to grow."

Mexicana Airlines is the only international carrier which flies into FYI Airport. Carry-on luggage in Mexico is checked a second time on the plane before departure. FYI Director of Aviation Russ Widmar said, "They do it every single night and they only do it for Fresno flights because of the sensitivity everyone has towards the agricultural situation here."

The new TV spots are just a scary way to make a point. Dr. Norm Smith said, "I think it's a good idea. Better than what was being done, which is nothing."

The three-million dollar campaign runs through October. Dr. Smith said to reach more people, the USDA should produce similar spots in several languages to reach other ethnic groups.

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