Wired has a very nice article on the controversy over the use of LBAM pheromone in an urban area in California, in which they do an excellent job balancing both science and public reaction. From Wired:

“Since material safety data sheets can make even the most benign molecules sound terrifically dangerous, vigilant citizens will express their concern about rather innocuous substances — damaging their credibility with the scientists who should listen to their objections — and making it hard to sort out any real threats.”

Rather predictably, the comments have a high level of burning stupid:

“All of you posts supporting the collusion and concentration of power by a wealthy few big ag/chem corporations better get informed or stop writing without revealing your ties to these corporations. IT IS NOT A PHEROMONE, it is synthetic in hugely, hugely unnatural concentrations with lots of carcinogenic and mutagenic inerts. The spray is inhaled deep into lungs like silica and asbestos. We got sick. Animals died. Some of us are still sick. Has one person been contacted who filed a pesticide related health complaint? – NO! Isn’t that enough for you doubters? Don’t you respect the people,or do you just respect and believe the CDFA/USDA, who are nothing more than propaganda machines for big corporate interests.”

I really just don’t get the conspiracy thing.

I have a lot of friends that work for USDA, and they are just some of the nicest folks around. This is also true of friends that work for agrochemical companies. None of these people would go along with a massive plan to cause harm or defraud the public.

This is also true of the people I worked with when I was employed by a pharmaceutical company, the other “big corporate interest” that gets a lot of blame. They all worked at that company because they believed they could truly create change with their work, and make lives better.

Are companies profit motivated? Sure.
But nearly every big company that has behaved badly has been brought down by an insider. You might be able to get a few people corrupt enough to misbehave, but they will be found out. (To get an entire corporation to lie, it apparently takes a Vice President.)

The other thing I hear a lot is that the USDA, college faculty, and state employees are getting rich by working with the agrochemical industry.

Uh. No.

Sure, we take money from companies, in the form of grants and contracts. And you would not believe what a pain in the ass grants and contracts are. Right now, if I buy a centrifuge using the money from Grant A, I am not supposed to use it for work on Grant B. Every dime is strictly accounted for. In a rather crazy, counterproductive way, actually.

You can do some consulting work, but the total amount of time you spend on different projects is tracked. If you try to dip into too many pots, you will get a phone call that you won’t enjoy.
This is not a lucrative job. I’m not poor, but I’m not rolling in dough and shilling for agrochemicals either.

I have almost 20 years of experience, I am in a senior leadership role at a large research station, and I have never made more than $55,000/yr in my entire life.  Comfortable, yes. Rich, no.

Being a scientist, especially an agricultural scientist, is not a fast track to riches and fame.

But I digress.
Back to the article.

I liked these comments:

“This pheromone has to be labeled as a “pesticide” simply because the end result of using it is the destruction of a pest. If water is sprayed and used to destroy a pest, then it too will have to be labeled a pesticide.”

“What would you suggest? I like to ask this of people who whine and criticize, because they never have the answer. Think on it for a while, and when you come up with the solution to the problems that span 6,000,000 square miles and encompass 300,000,000 people, by all means, let us know what it is.”

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Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Oh give it up already. You lost the battle. Obviously the CDFA/USDA was in the wrong or they would not have so abruptly changed their course.

  2. You are one creepy lady, No Spray. Seriously.
    You need to get a life.
    You are actually monitoring this blog for when I write about this topic? It’s been almost 4 months since your last post. Still planning to leave your husband over this?

    USDA backed off because in the hysteria (led by people like you) we don’t want to have a total ban of pheromone use.
    There are a lot of POLITICAL reasons not to do this, but no scientific ones.

  3. I really hate these blog stalkers. I’ve got this guy named Carl who behaves in the same, obsessive way, ever since I posted some stuff debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories a while back. He monitors my blog for anything related, then posts these long repetitive rants. It’s a bit pathetic.

  4. >you would not believe what a pain in the ass grants and contracts are.

    Oh, yes I would (but that should come as no surprise to you).

  5. I don’t know if No Spray should leave her husband over this issue, but I do know she shouldn’t breed.

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